nAture methods | VOL.7 NO.12 | DECEMBER 2010 | 1003
Pil Seok Chae1, Søren G F Rasmussen2, Rohini R Rana3, Kamil Gotfryd4, Richa Chandra5, Michael A Goren6,
Andrew C Kruse2, Shailika Nurva5, Claus J Loland4, Yves Pierre7, David Drew3, Jean-Luc Popot7, Daniel Picot7,
Brian G Fox6,8, Lan Guan5, Ulrik Gether4, Bernadette Byrne3, Brian Kobilka2 & Samuel H Gellman1
maltose–neopentyl glycol (mnG) amphiphiles for
solubilization, stabilization and crystallization of
the understanding of integral membrane protein (imP)
structure and function is hampered by the difficulty of
handling these proteins. Aqueous solubilization, necessary
for many types of biophysical analysis, generally requires
a detergent to shield the large lipophilic surfaces of native
imPs. many proteins remain difficult to study owing to a lack
of suitable detergents. We introduce a class of amphiphiles,
each built around a central quaternary carbon atom derived
from neopentyl glycol, with hydrophilic groups derived from
maltose. representatives of this maltose–neopentyl glycol
(mnG) amphiphile family show favorable behavior relative to
conventional detergents, as manifested in multiple membrane
protein systems, leading to enhanced structural stability and
successful crystallization. mnG amphiphiles are promising
tools for membrane protein science because of the ease with
which they may be prepared and the facility with which their
structures may be varied.
Integral membrane proteins (IMPs) play crucial roles in many
aspects of biology by mediating the transfer of material and sig-
nals between cells and their environment. It is estimated that
20–30% of all open reading frames in the human genome encode
membrane proteins and that more than 50% of current pharma-
ceutical agents target IMPs1. Our understanding of IMP structure
and function, however, is hampered by difficulties associated with
handling these proteins2. Most IMPs are not soluble in aqueous
buffer because they have large hydrophobic surfaces when prop-
erly folded; therefore, detergents are required to extract IMPs
from the lipid bilayer and to maintain their native states in solu-
tion. Mild detergents are widely used for IMP manipulation, but
many membrane proteins tend to denature and/or aggregate when
1Department of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA. 2Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Stanford University, Stanford, California,
USA. 3Division of Molecular Biosciences, Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, London, UK. 4Molecular Neuropharmacology Group, Department
of Neuroscience and Pharmacology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark. 5Department of Cell Physiology and Molecular
Biophysics, Center for Membrane Protein Research, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, Texas, USA. 6Department of Biochemistry, University of
Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA. 7Laboratoire de Biologie Physico-Chimique des Protéines Membranaires, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique/
Université Paris-7 Unité Mixte de Recherche 7099, Institut de Biologie Physico-Chimique, Paris, France. 8Center for Eukaryotic Structural Genomics, University of
Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA. Correspondence should be addressed to S.H.G. (firstname.lastname@example.org), B.K. (email@example.com) or
Received 25 May; accepted 30 SepteMbeR; publiShed online 31 octobeR 2010; coRRected online 9 noveMbeR 2010 (detailS online); doi:10.1038/nMeth.1526
solubilized with these agents3, making it difficult to conduct func-
tional studies, spectroscopic analysis or crystallization trials.
Earlier efforts to develop amphiphiles tailored for IMP appli-
cations have involved diverse strategies and achieved vary-
ing levels of success. Several peptide-based designs have been
explored (peptitergents4, lipopeptide detergents5, short pep-
tide surfactants6) but so far have not gained broad acceptance.
Amphiphilic polymers (“amphipols”7,8) and discoidal lipid bilay-
ers stabilized by an amphiphilic protein scaffold (“nanodiscs”9,10)
have proven to be versatile tools for studying IMPs in native-like
states in aqueous solution. It is not clear, however, whether either
of these approaches can yield high-quality crystals for diffraction
analysis, a prominent objective of IMP studies. Furthermore, nei-
ther amphipols nor nanodiscs are designed to extract IMPs from
biological membranes. Recently reported agents of low molecular
weight, such as hemifluorinated surfactants (HFS)8,11 and cholic
acid–based amphiphiles12, have shown promising properties, but
the scope of their utility remains to be explored. Thus there has
been a need for amphiphiles that can extract, stabilize and pro-
mote crystallization of IMPs more effectively than do current
detergents. Amphiphiles with this combination of capabilities
would have to be easily prepared on a large scale, which would
be extremely challenging for peptide- or protein-based agents.
Here we report a class of amphiphiles that show favorable behav-
ior with a diverse set of membrane proteins. The design of these
amphiphiles features a central quaternary carbon, which is intended
to place subtle restraints on conformational flexibility13–15.
Because the quaternary carbon was derived from neopentyl glycol
and because the hydrophilic groups in the examples discussed
here are derived from maltose, we designate these compounds
maltose–neopentyl glycol (MNG) amphiphiles. The quaternary
© 2010 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.
1004 | VOL.7 NO.12 | DECEMBER 2010 | nAture methods
critical micelle concentration (CMC) (Supplementary Fig. 2b).
The most successful amphiphile was MNG-3. MNG-3 was superior
to DDM as well in terms of maintaining a solubilized form of the
muscarinic M3 acetylcholine receptor (M3AchR) in an active state
(Fig. 2b). Together, the observations with β2AR-T4L and M3AchR
raised the possibility that MNG amphiphiles will be generally use-
ful for G protein–coupled receptor (GPCR) stabilization.
We turned next to melibiose permease (MelB), which catalyzes
the accumulation of α-d-galactopyranosides by a cation-solute
symport mechanism17. Treatment of membrane preparations con-
taining overexpressed MelB (from Escherichia coli DW2 cells) with
solutions containing 1.5 wt % amphiphile or detergent at 0 °C for
10 min quantitatively extracted MelB (Fig. 3). To assess protein
thermostability, we incubated the solubilized samples on ice or at
elevated temperatures for 90 min before ultracentrifugation. For the
conventional detergents (MPA-1, MPA-3 and DDM), we observed
MelB aggregation when the protein was incubated at 45 °C for
90 min, and the protein disappeared from solution when subjected to
treatment at 55 °C or 65 °C followed by ultracentrifugation (Fig. 3).
In contrast, all three MNG amphiphiles provided large amounts of
soluble protein even after treatment at 55 °C. In particular, MNG-3
was unique in preventing aggregation at 55 °C.
We assessed the thermostabilities of additional membrane protein
systems via a fluorescence assay. N-[4-(7-Diethylamino-4-methyl-
3-coumarinyl)phenyl]maleimide (CPM)18 can be selectively and
covalently attached to side chain thiol groups of solvent-accessible
cysteine residues. The maleimide unit of CPM quenches coumarin
fluorescence; however, the coumarin unit becomes fluorescent after
the maleimide reacts with a thiol. This assay provides insight on
unfolding for membrane proteins that have buried cysteine resi-
dues in the native conformation, because cysteine side chains that
become exposed as a result of unfolding are reactive. We applied
the CPM assay to two prokaryotic respiratory complexes, succi-
nate:quinone oxidoreductase (SQR)19 and cytochrome bo3 ubiq-
uinol oxidase (cytochrome bo3)20 from E. coli, and to the mouse
cytidine-5′-monophosphate–sialic acid transporter (CMP-Sia)21.
SQR was purified with the conventional detergent C12E9, and
cytochrome bo3 and CMP-Sia were purified with DDM. The puri-
fied membrane protein–detergent preparations were individually
diluted into solutions containing an amphiphile at 10× CMC, and
the unfolding in each protein sample was monitored over time at
carbon distinguishes MNG architecture from conventional deter-
gent structures and enables the incorporation of two hydrophilic
and two lipophilic subunits. We hypothesized that the modula-
tion of flexibility and distinctive orientations of hydrophilic and
lipophilic surfaces would give MNG amphiphiles properties
distinct from those of analogous conventional detergents. These
amphiphiles are readily synthesized. We have evaluated their
performance with multiple membrane proteins in diverse applica-
tions, including maintenance of native IMP folding, association
and function, extraction from a native membrane, growth of high-
quality crystals and support of cell-free translation.
mnG amphiphile architecture
We performed extensive preliminary studies that identified MNG-1,
MNG-2 and MNG-3 (Fig. 1) as showing particularly promising
behavior. Each of these amphiphiles features two maltose units
in its hydrophilic portion and two n-decyl chains in its lipophilic
portion. The lipophilic unit attachment varies, with amide link-
ages in MNG-1, ether linkages in MNG-2 and direct connection
to the quaternary center in MNG-3. Synthesis of each compound
was straightforward and efficient (Supplementary Note). We
prepared analogs with conventional detergent architecture, MPA-1
to MPA-4 (for monopodal amphiphile), for comparison with
MNG-1 and MNG-2 (Fig. 1). The comparison compounds for
MNG-3 are commercially available—n-undecyl-β-d-maltoside
(UDM) and n-dodecyl-β-d-maltoside (DDM, currently one of
the most widely used detergents in membrane protein research);
we also examined the lower homolog decyl-β-d-maltoside (DM)
and the higher homolog tridecyl-β-d-maltoside (TDM), both of
which are commercially available as well.
mnG amphiphiles stabilize diverse membrane proteins
We first examined the thermal stability of a human β2 adrenergic
receptor–T4 lysozyme fusion protein (β2AR-T4L)16 solubilized
with an MNG amphiphile or conventional detergent. Stability
was assessed via optical absorption measurements of β2AR-T4L
bound to the inverse agonist carazolol (fluorescence emission
maximum at 341 nm in the receptor-bound state and at 356
nm after carazolol release from the receptor). The receptor was
initially solubilized and purified with DDM, which was then
exchanged for the amphiphile or deter-
gent to be evaluated. The 341 nm/356 nm
peak-intensity ratio was used to monitor
the relative amounts of intact and dena-
tured β2AR-T4L (Supplementary Fig. 1).
We evaluated the effect of amphiphile con-
centration on the melting temperature (Tm)
of β2AR-T4L (Supplementary Fig. 2 and
Supplementary Table 1). All three MNG
amphiphiles were superior to DDM and
other conventional detergents (including
DM and TDM) in their effects on β2AR-T4L
thermal stability (Fig. 2a). The concentra-
tion ranges that confer optimal stabilization
in each case were similar in terms of weight
percentage (between 0.05 and 0.1 wt %)
but differed somewhat on a scale based on
MNG amphiphilesConventional detergents
MNG-1: X =
(CMC ~17 µM ; 0.0019 wt %)
MPA-1: X =
, n = 1 (CMC ~1,600 µM ; 0.089 wt %)
MPA-2: X =
, n = 2 (CMC ~1,200 µM ; 0.068 wt %)
MPA-3: X =
, n = 1 (CMC ~1,100 µM ; 0.058 wt %)
MPA-4: X =
, n = 2 (CMC ~660 µM ; 0.036 wt %)
DM: n = –1 (CMC ~1,800 µM ; 0.087 wt %)
UDM: n = 0 (CMC ~590 µM ; 0.029 wt %)
DDM: n = 1 (CMC ~170 µM ; 0.0087 wt %)
TDM: n = 2 (CMC ~33 µM ; 0.0017 wt %)
MNG-2: X =
(CMC ~9 µM ; 0.0010 wt %)
MNG-3: X = Nothing
(CMC ~10 µM ; 0.0010 wt %)
Figure 1 | Chemical structures of MNG amphiphiles
(MNG-1, MNG-2 and MNG-3) and their linear counterparts
(MPA-1, MPA-2, MPA-3, MPA-4, DM, UDM, DDM and TDM).
The CMC value for each agent, measured via hydrophobic
dye solubilization, is indicated in parentheses.
© 2010 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.
nAture methods | VOL.7 NO.12 | DECEMBER 2010 | 1005
40 °C. In addition to DDM, we evaluated MPA-4, DM and sodium
dodecyl sulfate (SDS). SDS is widely recognized to be highly dis-
ruptive of native protein conformations, and this detergent caused
the most rapid and extensive unfolding of each protein among the
agents we examined (Fig. 4a and Supplementary Fig. 3). For each
protein, the level of fluorescence observed with SDS after 130 min
at 40 °C was taken to indicate a limiting denatured state, and a lack
of fluorescence was taken to indicate a native state.
All three MNG amphiphiles appeared to be superior to con-
ventional detergents at maintaining native protein structure, as
indicated by CPM assay results for SQR (Fig. 4a) and comparable
results for cytochrome bo3 and CMP-Sia (Supplementary
Fig. 3a,b). DDM and MPA-4 were nearly as effective as the
MNG amphiphiles, but DM was noticeably inferior. We next
used gel filtration analysis to determine whether MNG-3 or
DDM could maintain quaternary interactions among the four
SQR subunits. After 120 min at 40 °C in the presence of 10× CMC
DDM, the native quaternary structure of SQR was almost com-
pletely destroyed (Fig. 4b). In contrast, the quaternary structure
remained largely intact after 130 min at 40 °C in the presence of
10× CMC MNG-3 (Fig. 4c). We also compared MNG-3 and DDM
in an SQR functional assay. SQR must be thermally activated (by
incubation at 30 °C for 20 min) to remove bound oxaloacetate
from the active site before assay. We incubated activated SQR
with either MNG-3 or DDM at 40 °C and then measured the
catalytic efficacy of the protein (kcat) immediately after activa-
tion (0 min) and at 60-min intervals thereafter. Both MNG-3 and
DDM gave fairly high initial kcat values, but SQR activity steadily
declined with DDM, whereas activity was maintained or even
slightly improved with MNG-3 (Fig. 4d). Overall, these results
show that MNG-3 maintains the SQR quaternary assembly in
a fully native state and that the MNG amphiphile is superior to
DDM in stabilizing catalytically competent SQR.
We turned to the bacterial leucine transporter (LeuT)22 to eval-
uate protein stability as a function of time at room temperature
(rather than as an ability to resist thermal denaturation). LeuT,
a bacterial member of the neurotransmitter:sodium symporter
Log wt % above CMC
t = 0 h
t = 0 h
t = 15 h
Specific activity (pmol mg–1)
family (NSS family) proteins23, was solubilized and purified with
DDM and then transferred into individual amphiphile solutions.
We assessed LeuT activity in terms of its ability to bind [3H]leucine
via scintillation proximity assay24. Preliminary studies, conducted
at 10× CMC, indicated that LeuT solubilized with several conven-
tional detergents showed a rapid decline in activity, whereas LeuT
solubilized with DDM showed a more gradual loss of activity;
all three MNG amphiphiles were superior to DDM in terms of
maintaining LeuT activity over time (Supplementary Fig. 4a,b).
We conducted further studies involving the MNG amphiphiles
and DDM with each agent at 0.026 wt % above its CMC (Fig. 5a
and Supplementary Fig. 4c). Under these conditions, each MNG
amphiphile kept LeuT fully soluble and fully active over the 12-d
study period. In contrast, LeuT activity declined to ~65% after
12 d in the presence of DDM (Fig. 5a).
mnG amphiphiles extract imPs from native membranes
To assess the ability of MNG amphiphiles to extract intrinsic
proteins from their native membranes, we examined the pho-
tosynthetic superassembly of Rhodobacter capsulatus25. These
studies used membranes isolated from an R. capsulatus strain
that lacks light-harvesting complex II (LHII)26; in this case the
Figure 2 | GPCR stability in MNG amphiphiles or conventional detergents.
(a) Tm values of β2AR-T4L plotted in terms of wt % of the MNG amphiphiles
(MNG-1, MNG-2 and MNG-3) or conventional detergents (MPA-1, MPA-3,
DM, DDM and TDM). β2AR-T4L with bound carazolol (an inverse agonist) was
incubated with various agents at the various concentrations at indicated
temperatures for 5 min before fluorescence emission measurements.
Normalized results are expressed as mean ± s.e.m. (n = 3, 4 or 5). (b) Specific
activities (pmol mg−1) of M3AchR in DDM and MNG-3. The activity of the
protein was evaluated after the protein was washed and eluted with buffer
including DDM or MNG-3, but without CHS, via a binding assay involving the
antagonist [3H]N-methylscopolamine, in the absence (t = 0 h, − CHS; first
bar) or presence of CHS (t = 0 h, + CHS; second bar). The DDM- and
MNG-3–purified M3AchR samples were stored at 4 °C for 15 h, and then
activities were measured again in the presence of CHS (t = 15 h, + CHS; third
bar). Results are expressed as mean ± s.d. (n = 3).
+ – + – + – + – +
+ – + – + – + – + Spin
10 90 1090(min)
0 45556500 4555
Figure 3 | SDS-12% PAGE analysis and western blot detection of MelB. MelB
samples were subjected to SDS-PAGE analysis, and MelB was detected by
western blotting using anti–histidine tag antibody. Each sample contained
10 µg membrane proteins. For extracts generated with each detergent or
amphiphile, one sample was subjected to ultracentrifugation (+) and a
comparison sample was not (−). As a control, an untreated membrane
sample (no ultracentrifugation) was included in each gel.
© 2010 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.
1006 | VOL.7 NO.12 | DECEMBER 2010 | nAture methods
875 nm/680 nm absorbance ratio declined over 20 d; however, at
every time point, the ratio was higher for the samples solubilized
with an MNG amphiphile than for the samples solubilized with
a conventional detergent. Overall, the results with R. capsulatus
photosynthetic proteins show that MNG amphiphiles can extract
a protein quaternary structure intact from its native membrane
and then provide superior structural stability over time relative
to DDM or other conventional detergents.
We performed additional studies to evaluate the use of MNG-3
for extraction of other proteins from membranes. MNG-3 was
comparable to the conventional detergents DDM and TDM, at
1 wt % or 2 wt %, for the extraction of wild-type β2AR from Sf9
insect cell membranes. We evaluated the activity of β2AR recep-
tor via a binding assay with antagonist [3H]dihydroalprenolol
(Supplementary Fig. 8a). At 1 wt %, MNG-3 was comparable
to DDM and slightly inferior to TDM in terms of β2AR activity,
but at 2 wt %, MNG-3 was superior to both conventional deter-
gents. MNG-3 at 2 wt % yielded a receptor activity comparable
to that of 1 wt % TDM. For extraction of LeuT from the bac-
terial membrane, MNG-3 proved to be somewhat inferior to
DDM, providing only ~60% of the yield obtained with DDM.
However, MNG-3–purified protein showed substrate affinity
identical to that of DDM-purified protein (Supplementary
Fig. 8b). For extraction of a CMP-Sia fusion protein bearing
superassembly comprises the very labile light-harvesting com-
plex I (LHI) and the more resilient reaction-center complex (RC).
This system is well suited for assessing extraction and stabiliza-
tion properties of detergents and amphiphiles because the super-
assembly can be detected and its composition can be qualitatively
monitored via optical measurements15: intact LHI-RC super-
assembly has a strong absorbance at 875 nm and a 875 nm/760
nm absorption ratio >7. (Absorbance at 760 nm arises from bac-
teriochlorophyll units that have dissociated from LHI.) We treated
intracytoplasmic R. capsulatus membranes enriched in LHI-RC
complex with solutions containing 1 wt % detergent or amphiphile
for 30 min at 32 °C. MNG-2 and MNG-3 were effective at extract-
ing the intact superassembly (strong absorption at 875 nm;
875 nm/760 nm ratio ~9–10; Supplementary Fig. 5). Comparable
efficacy was observed with MPA-3 and DDM (875 nm/760 nm ratio
~8.5), but other conventional detergents were less successful. After
purification of solubilized samples (Supplementary Fig. 6), we
monitored the superassembly stability over time at room tempera-
ture based on the 875 nm/680 nm absorbance ratio (absorbance at
680 nm arises from oxidation of bacteriochlorophyll that has been
released from LHI). We compared the three MNG amphiphiles
to conventional detergents (DDM and MPA-3), with each agent
at its CMC (Fig. 5b; comparisons involving other concentrations
may be found in Supplementary Fig. 7). For all samples, the
Relative amount of
folded protein (percent)
Retention volume (ml)
DDM 0 min
DDM 120 min
MNG-3 0 min
MNG-3 120 min
MNG-3 (50× CMC) DDM (50× CMC)
DDM (10× CMC) MNG-3 (10× CMC)
MPA-4 MNG-3 MNG-2
125 75 25500 1525
Retention volume (ml)
20 20 120100 8060 40105
Catalytic rate constant, kcat (s–1)
Figure 4 | Stability of SQR solubilized with MNG amphiphiles or conventional detergents. (a) Results of CPM assays for SQR solubilized with MNG
amphiphiles (MNG-1, MNG-2 and MNG-3) or conventional detergents (MPA-4, DDM, DM and SDS) at 10× CMC. The unfolding of the each protein was
monitored at 40 °C for 130 min using a microplate spectrofluorometer. (b,c) Gel filtration analysis of SQR in DDM (b) or MNG-3 (c) at 10× CMC. SQR in
DDM or MNG-3 was incubated for 120 min at 40 °C (AU, absorbance unit). (d) Time course of SQR activity in MNG-3 or DDM. Each agent was used at
10× CMC (0.01 wt % for MNG-3, 0.087 wt % for DDM) and 50× CMC (0.05 wt % for MNG-3, 0.44 wt % for DDM). Note that 50× CMC MNG-3 is comparable
to DDM at 10× CMC in terms of wt %. The catalytic rate constant (kcat) is plotted as a function of incubation time. Data at t = 0 correspond to the activity
of SQR following thermal activation performed at 30 °C for 20 min. Protein solubilized with each agent was incubated at 40 °C for a further 120 min, and
activity of the protein was measured at the designated times. The kcat values at each time point were calculated by analyzing reaction data according to
005 15 2010
c.p.m. [3H]Leu, percent of control
Absorbance ratio, A875/A680
468 10 12
Time (d) Time (d)
Figure 5 | Long-term stability of LeuT and R. capsulatus superassembly in
MNG amphiphiles or conventional detergents. (a) Time course of activity
([3H]leucine binding) assay for LeuT solubilized with MNG amphiphiles
(MNG-1, MNG-2 and MNG-3) and DDM at 0.026 wt % above the critical
micelle concentration (CMC) (total concentrations: 0.035 wt % DDM,
0.028 wt % MNG-1, 0.027 wt % MNG-2 and 0.027 wt % MNG-3). LeuT
activity was monitored at indicated time points, using a scintillation
proximity assay (SPA), for protein stored at the room temperature. Results
are expressed as % activity relative to the appropriate day 0 measurement.
Normalized results are expressed as mean ± s.e.m. (n = 2). (b) Time course
of stability of R. capsulatus superassembly purified with MNG amphiphiles
(MNG-1, MNG-2 and MNG-3) or conventional detergents (MPA-3 and
DDM) at 1 × CMC. The absorbance ratios (A875/A680) of the detergent or
amphiphile samples were followed as a function of time.
© 2010 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.
nAture methods | VOL.7 NO.12 | DECEMBER 2010 | 1007
green fluoresc ent protein (GFP) at the
C terminus, expressed in Saccharomyces
cerevisiae, MNG-3 and DDM provided
comparable protein yields (70–80%);
in each case, the protein was intact and
homogenous (Supplementary Fig. 8c).
Overall, based on results from several different systems, MNG-3
appears to be comparable to DDM for extraction of membrane
proteins from biological membranes.
We observed that MNG amphiphiles enabled the expression
and concomitant solubilization of a membrane protein, bacterio-
opsin (BO), from a cell-free wheat germ–based translation system
(Supplementary Fig. 9). DDM and other conventional detergents
could solubilize only limited amounts of translated BO at 0.1 wt %,
and these detergents inhibited cell-free translation at 0.2 wt %.
In contrast, 0.2 wt % MNG-2 or MNG-3 was compatible with
translation and solubilized most of the BO.
mnG amphiphiles aid in membrane protein crystallization
Growth of high-quality crystals that allow structure determination
is one of the most important and challenging goals of membrane
protein research. We examined crystallization of the cytochrome b6f
complex from Chlamydomonas reinhardtii with MNG-3. This protein
assembly tends to denature in the presence of most conventional
detergents, but DDM can maintain the native structure and has previ-
ously enabled crystallization and structure determination of the com-
plex via X-ray diffraction27. Cytochrome b6f crystallization requires
0.2 mM DDM (CMC = 0.17 mM); lower detergent concentrations
promote protein aggregation, whereas higher detergent concentra-
tion lead to dissociation of subunits. We found that cytochrome b6f
in the presence of 0.5 mM MNG-3 showed stability comparable to
that observed in the presence of 0.2 mM DDM. The tolerance for
higher concentrations of MNG-3 relative to DDM provided a larger
concentration window in which to attempt crystallization of solubi-
lized cytochrome b6f . Protein-containing crystals appeared within
24 h of setting up drops. After a few days, crystals reached a maxi-
mum size of 70 × 400 µm (data not shown).
The diffraction data from cytochrome b6f crystals grown
with MNG-3 extended up to ~3.4-Å resolution (Fig. 6 and
Supplementary Table 2), a value similar to that commonly
obtained for crystals grown with DDM. With DDM, extensive
screening yielded crystals diffracting to 2.8 Å27. Fourier differ-
ence maps (of crystals with DDM27 versus crystals with MNG-3)
showed no notable features in the protein region (data not shown).
However, substantial differences (up to 6.8 σ) were observed in
regions where detergent molecules have been localized in the
crystals grown with DDM. These differences indicate that during
the exchange of detergents, MNG-3 was able to displace the most
strongly bound DDM molecules. Further analysis by refinement
of the protein structure starting from the DDM structure con-
firmed that the electron density of two DDM molecules had van-
ished and that a new molecule with a slightly different maltoside
headgroup position, presumably MNG-3, occupied this position.
This electron density, however, was not sufficiently well defined to
allow model building of MNG-3, despite otherwise good refine-
ment statistics for the protein (Supplementary Table 2).
Membrane protein crystallization from a lipidic cubic phase
(LCP) is an increasingly popular strategy28 that has, notably, led
to the recent structure solution of β2AR-T4L16,29,30. We evaluated
the ability of MNG-3 to promote LCP-based crystallization of two
new forms of this GPCR, a fusion protein with a covalently attached
agonist (unpublished data) and an agonist-bound β2AR-T4L stabi-
lized by an antibody in an active state (unpublished data). Although
efforts to crystallize DDM-solubilized agonist-bound receptor from
a monoolein-water LCP yielded crystals (data not shown), it was
impossible to grow them large enough to obtain high-resolution
diffraction. By contrast, in both cases detergent exchange into
MNG-3 facilitated incorporation into the LCP, from which larger
crystals suitable for X-ray diffraction analysis were obtained (data
not shown). In the latter case, the crystals were ~40 × 5 × 5 µm, and
X-ray diffraction data allowed solution of the structure to 3.5-Å
resolution. We speculate that the enhanced stability of β2AR-T4L
solubilized by MNG-3 relative to the DDM-solubilized form may be
crucial for successful transfer of the protein into the LCP.
Our results suggest that MNG amphiphiles will be generally useful
for membrane protein biochemistry research. MNG amphiphiles
can be readily prepared in multi-gram quantities, and this synthetic
accessibility should enable their evaluation with many systems,
including efforts directed toward structural analysis (for exam-
ple, through nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy31 or mass
spectrometry32) and the incorporation of MNG amphiphiles into
new techniques for membrane protein purification and manipula-
tion33. Given the diversity of shapes, sequences and properties of
membrane proteins and their assemblies, it seems very unlikely
that any single amphiphile will be ideal for all or even a large sub-
set of membrane proteins. The ease with which MNG amphiphile
structure may be varied should facilitate the development of a suite
of agents that, collectively, have broad utility.
Figure 6 | Image and X-ray diffraction pattern from
crystals of cytochrome b6f –MNG-3 complexes. X-ray
diffraction by a cytochrome b6f crystal obtained
in the presence of MNG-3. Left panel represents
a portion of the pattern (0.5° oscillation range).
Resolution limits are marked with arrows (the
white cross is due to the tiling of the detector).
Top right, enlargement of the yellow square with
two strong spots near the resolution limit.
A section through the two strong spots is shown
in the lower right corner (a.u., arbitrary unit).
© 2010 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.
1008 | VOL.7 NO.12 | DECEMBER 2010 | nAture methods
6. Zhao, X. et al. Designer short peptide surfactants stabilize G protein-
coupled receptor bovine rhodopsin. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 103,
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Many important questions remain to be addressed in subse-
quent studies. For example, it will be valuable to assess the sizes
of micelles formed by MNG amphiphiles and how micelle size is
affected by changes in amphiphile structure. In addition, it will
be useful to determine average numbers of amphiphile molecules
per micelle. But even before these properties are elucidated, we
anticipate, based on this first characterization study, that the
MNG amphiphiles will become useful tools for membrane pro-
Methods and any associated references are available in the online
version of the paper at http://www.nature.com/naturemethods/.
Note: Supplementary information is available on the Nature Methods website.
This work was supported by US National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant P01
GM75913 (S.H.G.), NS28471 (B.K.), by the Lundbeck Foundation (S.G.F.R.,
C.J.L. and U.G.), by the Danish National Research Council (C.J.L., U.G.), by the
European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme FP7/2007-2013 under
grant agreement no. HEALTH-F4-2007-201924, EDICT Consortium (K.G., U.G. and
B.B.) and by NIH grant GM083118 and NIH Protein Structure Initiative grants
U54 GM-074901 (J.L. Markley, PI; B.G.F.) and U54 GM094584 (B.G.F.). This work
was also supported by grant no. R21HL087895 from the US National Heart, Lung,
and Blood Institute, by the Texas Norman Hackerman Advanced Research Program
under grant no. 010674-0034-2009 (to L.G.) and by the Center for Membrane
Protein Research, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. R.R.R. was
funded by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. We thank P. Laible
(Argonne National Laboratory, Chicago) for supplying membrane preparations
from R. capsulatus. We acknowledge SOLEIL (Saint-Aubin, France) for provision
of synchrotron radiation facilities, and we would like to thank B. Guimaraes
for assistance in using the beamline Proxima 1. We also thank R. Kaback
(University of California, Los Angeles) and G. Leblanc (Institut de Biologie et
Technologies–Saclay) for the MelB expression system. M.A.G. acknowledges
support from the US National Science Foundation East Asia and Pacific Summer
Institutes Fellowship program. We thank G. Cecchini (University of California,
San Francisco) and J. Ruprecht (Medical Research Council Mitochondrial Biology
Unit, Cambridge) for the purified SQR and the details of the SQR functional
assay, and we acknowledge the assistance of P. Nixon in the analysis of the SQR
P.S.C. designed the MNG amphiphiles, with contributions from S.G.F.R., B.K. and
S.H.G. P.S.C. synthesized the amphiphiles. P.S.C., S.G.F.R., R.R.R., K.G., R.C.,
M.A.G., A.C.K., S.N., Y.P. and D.P. designed and performed the research and
interpreted the data. C.J.L., D.D., B.G.F., L.G., U.G., J.-L.P., B.B., B.K. and S.H.G.
contributed to experimental design and data interpretation. P.S.C. and S.H.G.
wrote the manuscript, with oversight from S.G.F.R., R.R.R., K.G., R.C., M.A.G.,
A.C.K., S.N., C.J.L., Y.P., D.D., J.-L.P., D.P., B.G.F., L.G., U.G., B.B. and B.K.
comPetinG FinAnciAl interests
The authors declare competing financial interests: details accompany the full-
text HTML version of the paper at http://www.nature.com/naturemethods/.
Published online at http://www.nature.com/naturemethods/.
reprints and permissions information is available online at http://npg.nature.
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© 2010 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.
radioligand using a Sephadex G-50 column (GE Healthcare). All
binding reactions were performed in buffer containing 0.1% of
the same detergent used in solubilization, and G-50 columns were
likewise equilibrated and eluted in this buffer (100 mM NaCl,
20 mM HEPES, pH 7.5, 0.1% detergent). Nonspecific binding was
determined in the same manner but with the addition of 10 µM
alprenolol to the binding reaction. All binding reactions were
performed in triplicate, and protein was diluted before binding
such that bound radioligand never exceeded 10% of the total.
Muscarinic M3 acetylcholine receptor activity assay. M3 mus-
carinic acetylcholine receptor with the third intracellular loop
replaced by T4 lysozyme and an N-terminal Flag epitope tag
added was expressed in the same manner as described above,
but with the addition of 1 µM atropine to culture medium upon
infection. Cells were lysed as described. Following centrifugation,
the lysed cell pellet from 1 liter of culture was mixed with 200 ml
M3 solubilization buffer (400 mM NaCl, 0.03% cholesterol hemi-
succinate, 20 mM HEPES pH 7.5, 0.2% sodium cholate, 1% DDM,
5 µg ml−1 leupeptin, 320 µg ml−1 benzamidine). After being
dounce homogenized 20 times with a tight pestle, the material
was stirred at 4 °C for 1 h. 400 ml of dilution buffer containing
0.1% DDM, 20 mM HEPES pH 7.5, 30 mM NaCl, 3 mM CaCl2,
5 µg ml−1 leupeptin and 320 µg ml−1 benzamidine was added with
stirring, and the mix was then centrifuged to remove insoluble
material. The resulting supernatant was split in half and flowed
over Flag affinity columns to bind the protein. Protein was then
washed with either 50 ml of high-salt DDM buffer (0.1% DDM,
20 mM HEPES pH 7.5, 500 mM NaCl, 0.01% CHS 5 µg ml−1
leupeptin, 320 µg ml−1 benzamidine) or exchanged into MNG-3
buffer (0.1% MNG-3, 20 mM HEPES, 500 mM NaCl, <0.01% CHS,
5 µg ml−1 leupeptin, 320 µg ml−1 benzamidine). The exchange
was performed over the course of 1.5 h by increasing MNG-3 and
decreasing DDM concentrations in 0.005% increments until the
final 0.1% concentration of MNG-3 was reached. Columns were
then washed with 50 ml of DDM buffer without CHS or with
MNG-3 buffer without CHS (with MNG-3 decreased to 0.01%),
over the course of 50 min. These and all other wash buffers con-
tained 2 mM CaCl2. Columns were eluted in washing buffer with
5 mM EDTA and no CaCl2 with 0.2 mg ml−1 Flag peptide added.
Elution volumes for MNG-3 and DDM were identical. After elu-
tion, binding reactions were performed as described above but
using a saturating concentration of [3H]N-methylscopolamine
(10 nM). Nonspecific binding was measured in the presence
of 10 µM atropine. Protein assay was done as described above.
All M3 binding reactions and G-50 elution with MNG-3 were
performed at 0.01% concentration. Binding was measured again
after overnight incubation at 4 °C.
MelB thermostability assay. Vector pK95 ΔAHB/WT MelB/CH6,
encoding the wild-type MelB with a hexahistidine (His6) tag at
the C terminus, and E. coli DW2-R cells (ΔmelB and ΔlacZY) were
gifts from G. Leblanc (Institut de Biologie et Technologies–Saclay).
Overexpression of MelB was performed as described34. Cells were
harvested, resuspended in a buffer containing 20 mM Tris, pH 7.5,
200 mM NaCl and 10% glycerol, broken by French press and centri-
fuged at 20,000g for 15 min to remove unbroken cells. Membranes
were then harvested from the supernatant by ultracentrifugation
at 43,000 r.p.m. for 3 h in the Beckman Ti 45 rotor. The pellets
Detergents and amphiphiles. We purchased conventional
detergents (DM, UDM, DDM, TDM, LDAO, SDS and OG) from
Anatrace. We obtained the starting materials and reagents used for
preparation of MNG amphiphiles from Sigma-Aldrich. We used
all of these agents without purification. Details of the syntheses of
MNG amphiphiles can be found in the Supplementary Note.
b2AR stabilization and solubilization studies. The β2AR-T4L
was expressed in Sf9 insect cells, solubilized and purified in
DDM as previously described16. Briefly, the receptor was puri-
fied by M1 Flag antibody affinity chromatography before and
after an alprenolol-Sepharose chromatography step. Carazolol
was bound to the receptor on the second M1 resin after exten-
sive washing in HEPES low-salt buffer (0.1% DDM, 100 mM
NaCl, 20 mM HEPES, pH 7.5) containing 30 µM carazolol.
The eluted and carazolol-bound receptor was dialyzed against
the same buffer containing 1 µM carazolol to reduce free cara-
zolol concentration. The β2AR-T4L was spin concentrated to
7 mg ml−1 (~140 µM) using a 100-kDa molecular-weight-cut-off
(MWCO) Vivaspin concentrator (Vivascience). For stability
measurements, the carazolol-bound receptor was diluted below
the CMC for DDM by adding 3 µl of the concentrated recep-
tor in a quartz cuvette containing 600 µl buffer (100 mM NaCl,
20 mM HEPES, pH 7.5) with detergents and amphiphiles at
various concentrations ranging from 1.5× to 250× CMC. The
cuvette was placed in a Spex FluoroMax-3 spectrofluorometer
(Jobin Yvon Inc.) under Peltier temperature control. Fluorescence
emission from carazolol was obtained after 5-min incubations
from 25 °C to 85 °C in 12 successive 5 °C increments. Excitation
was set at 325 nm, and emission was measured from 335 nm to
400 nm with an integration time of 0.3 s nm−1 using a bandpass
of 1 nm for both excitation and emission. The 341 nm/356 nm
peak ratio was calculated and graphed using Microsoft Excel
and GraphPad Prism software. For solubilization study from cell
membranes, Sf9 cells were grown to a density of approximately
4 × 106 per ml and then infected with baculovirus expressing the
wild-type β2AR (truncated after residue 365). After 48 h cells were
harvested by centrifugation. No exogenous ligand was present
during protein expression. Cells were resuspended, incubated in
ice-cold lysis buffer (1 mM EDTA, 10 mM Tris, pH 8) contain-
ing protease inhibitors (5 µg ml−1 leupeptin and 320 µg ml−1
benzamidine) for 5 min and then pelleted by centrifugation
(10 min, 4 °C, 16,000g). The pellet was resuspended in PBS saline
and aliquoted into 1.5-ml tubes so that each tube contained 35 mg
of wet pellet after centrifugation and removal of supernatant.
Solubilization buffers contained 100 mM NaCl, 20 mM HEPES,
pH 7.5, 5 µg ml−1 leupeptin, 320 µg ml−1 benzamidine, and either
1 wt % or 2 wt % of the indicated detergent. 300 µl of solubiliza-
tion buffer was added to each pellet, which was resuspended and
homogenized by forcing the mixture through a 27-gauge syringe
30 times. Tubes were rocked at 4 °C for 1.5 h and then centri-
fuged at 16,000g to pellet insoluble material. The supernatant was
then checked for total protein content by using a Bio-Rad DC
protein assay calibrated against a BSA standard. Measurements
were performed in triplicate and then averaged. Active protein
content was determined by incubating soluble material with the
antagonist [3H]dihydroalprenolol at a single saturating concen-
tration (10 nM) for 40 min and then separating bound from free
© 2010 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.
were resuspended in the same buffer, frozen in liquid N2 and then
stored at −80 °C until use. A protein assay was performed with a
BCA kit (Thermo Scientific). For solubilization and thermostability
assay, membrane samples containing MelB at a final protein con-
centration of 10 mg ml−1 in a solubilization buffer (20 mM Tris,
200 mM NaCl, 10% glycerol, 20 mM melibiose, pH 7.5) were incu-
bated with 1.5% (w/v) of a given amphiphile or detergent at 0 °C for
10 min and subsequently placed at a given temperature (0, 45, 55 or
65 °C) for 90 min. Samples were collected and then ultracentrifuged
at 355,590g in a Beckman OptimaTM MAX ultracentrifuge using
a TLA-100 rotor for 45 min at 4 °C. 10 µg protein, from untreated
membrane or detergent extracts, and equal volumes of the solu-
tions after ultracentrifugation were analyzed by 12% SDS-PAGE
and immunoblotted with pentahistidine antibody conjugated to
horseradish peroxidase (His5-HRP; Qiagen).
SQR, Cyt bo3 and CMP-Sia thermostability assay and SQR size
exclusion chromatography (SEC) analysis and functional assay.
The thermostability assay method was performed as described18
with the following minor modifications. CPM dye (Invitrogen),
stored in DMSO (Sigma), was diluted in dye buffer (20 mM Tris
(pH 7.5), 150 mM NaCl, 0.03% DDM, 5 mM EDTA). All the
detergents were used at 10× CMC values in test buffer (20 mM
Tris (pH 7.5), 150 mM NaCl). The test proteins—SQR, Cyt bo3
and CMP-Sia (10 mg ml−1)—were diluted (1:150) in test buffer
in Greiner 96-well plates, and 3 µl of diluted CPM dye was added
to each test condition. The reaction was monitored for 130 min
at 40 °C using a microplate spectrofluorometer set at excitation
and emission wavelengths of 387 nm and 463 nm, respectively.
Relative maximum fluorescence was used to calculate per-
centage of relative folded protein remaining after 130 min at
40 °C. Relative unfolding profiles of proteins were plotted against
time using GraphPad Prism. For SEC analysis, test protein sam-
ples of SQR were diluted (1:100) in SEC buffer (20 mM Tris
(pH 7.5), 150 mM NaCl) containing either DDM or MNG-3 at
10× CMC. Aliquots (500 µl) of the diluted protein were either
applied directly onto the column or heated at 40 °C for 120 min
before being loaded onto a Superdex 200 column (GE Healthcare)
pre-equilibrated in the respective SEC buffers. For the functional
assay of SQR, DDM and MNG-3 at 10× or 50× CMC were used
in activation and assay buffers. SQR was activated in buffer
(30 mM K2PO4, 0.2 mM EDTA, 10 mM malonate) to remove
bound oxaloacetate from the active site. The sample was diluted
to 1 mg ml−1 in activation buffer and then a further 50 times in
the same buffer. Enzyme activation was performed at 30 °C for
20 min, aliquots were removed and then the samples were heated
at 40 °C for 60 min and 120 min. The amount of functional SQR
was estimated based on the succinate-Q1-DCIP reductase activity
of the samples. Functional activity was monitored at 600 nm as
a decrease of absorbance of 2,6-dichloroindophenol (DCIP)
(extinction coefficient = 21.8 mM−1 cm−1) when 50 µM DCIP,
10 mM succinate, varied amounts of coenzyme Q1 (CoQ1)
including blank and 0.6 µl of activated and/or heated SQR enzyme
samples were added to assay buffers. The slopes of the absorbance
curves (up to 20 min) were measured for a range of concentra-
tions of CoQ1 (0 to 30 µM) and converted to initial velocity (V0)
values using the Beer-Lambert law. The V0 values were plot-
ted against CoQ1 concentrations for each detergent condi-
tion to fit the Michaelis-Menten equation. The saturation
concentration of CoQ1 was obtained for each condition as 20 µM.
The Michaelis-Menten equation was used to calculate catalytic
parameters for SQR-catalyzed succinate-Q1-DCIP reductase
activity. The specific activity (kcat) for SQR was calculated from
1-ml assay as follows. On addition of the enzyme, the change in
absorbance over the initial 3 min of the reaction at 20 µM CoQ1
was converted to rate of the reaction using the Beer-Lambert law.
Because this rate of the reaction at 20 µM CoQ1 is also the Vmax,
the kcat values were calculated as rate per amount of enzyme.
CMP-Sia solubilization. Expression and solubilization of CMP-Sia
was performed as described previously35. In brief, the CMP-Sia was
expressed as a fusion protein with a C-terminal GFP in FGY217
Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells. Membranes, generated as described
previously31 were resuspended in 50 mM Tris-HCl (pH 7.5), 1 mM
EDTA, 0.6 M sorbitol and the protein concentration measured. The
membranes were adjusted to a concentration of 1 mg ml−1 and
1-ml aliquots were solubilized individually in DDM and MNG-3 at
final detergent concentrations of 0.5 wt %, 1.0 wt %, and 2.0 wt %
for 1 h at 4 °C. 100-µl aliquots were removed from each tube, and
a fluorescence reading was taken for each sample before and after
ultracentrifugation at 150,000g for 1 h to remove insoluble material.
The solubilization efficiency (%) is the fluorescence reading of the
soluble supernatant divided by the fluorescence reading of the total
sample times 100. The remaining soluble fraction for each condition
was submitted to fluorescent SEC (FSEC) as described previously36
using a Superose 6 column (GE Healthcare) equilibrated with buffer
containing the appropriate agent (DDM or MNG-3).
LeuT solubilization, solubility and functionality assay. The
wild-type version of the leucine transporter (LeuT) from Aquifex
aeolicus in pET16b (pET16b-LeuT-His8) was expressed in
Escherichia coli essentially as described22. The plasmid was kindly
provided by E. Gouaux (Vollum Institute, Portland, Oregon,
USA). LeuT was purified from isolated cell membranes solubilized
with 1% DDM and was then subjected to Ni2+-affinity chroma-
tography using Chelating Sepharose Fast Flow (GE Healthcare)
and elution in buffer composed of 20 mM Tris-HCl (pH 8.0), 1 mM
NaCl, 199 mM KCl, 0.05% DDM and 300 mM imidazole. For
comparison, in the solubilization assay, LeuT was extracted
and eluted using MNG-3 in the final concentration of 1% and
0.042%, respectively. In the solubility and functionality assay,
selected LeuT fractions eluted in the presence of 0.05% DDM were
pooled, divided into aliquots and diluted in the above-mentioned
buffer without DDM but containing MNG amphiphiles or con-
ventional detergents to the final concentration of 10× CMC or
0.026 wt % above their CMC values (OG was tested at 2× CMC).
After incubation at the room temperature, samples were centri-
fuged, and the protein concentration was determined at the indi-
cated time points based on absorbance at 280 nm. Concomitantly,
at the corresponding time points, [3H]leucine binding was
assessed by scintillation proximity assay (SPA)24. Briefly, each SPA
reaction mixture consisted of 6 µl from the respective samples,
33.3 nM [3H]leucine (PerkinElmer) and copper chelate (His-tag)
YSi beads (GE Healthcare). SPA was performed in the presence or
absence of 1 × 10−5 M leucine in 20 mM Tris-HCl (pH 8.0) sup-
plemented with NaCl and the selected amphiphile or detergent to
final concentrations of 200 mM and 3.3-fold dilution of the origi-
nal concentrations, respectively. In the solubilization assay, the
© 2010 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1038/nmeth.1526 Download full-text
with DDM. Crystals were flash frozen in liquid nitrogen, and
diffraction experiments were performed at the synchrotron
SOLEIL (Saint-Aubin, France) on the beamline Proxima 1.
Diffraction data were integrated with XDS37 and analyzed with
the CCP4 package38. The model was refined with PHENIX39 and
BUSTER40. Plastoquinone/plastocyanine oxidoreductase activity
measurements were performed according to the literature41.
Cell-free expression of proteins in the presence of amphiphiles.
Transcription and translation of genes cloned into the pEU-HIS
cell-free expression vector was performed as previously reported42.
Briefly, for each sample, a 50-µl transcription reaction containing
5 µg plasmid DNA, 80 mM HEPES, pH 7.5, 16 mM magnesium
acetate, 2 mM spermidine, 10 mM dithiothreitol, 2.5 mM of each
nucleotide triphosphate, 25 U RNasin (Promega) and 30 U Sp6
RNA polymerase was incubated at 37 °C for 3 h. The resultant
mRNA was purified by ethanol precipitation and air-dried. The
pellet was resuspended in 50 µl of the translation reaction solu-
tion, which contained dialysis buffer (30 mM HEPES, pH 7.8,
100 mM potassium acetate, 2.7 mM magnesium acetate, 1.2 mM
ATP, 0.25 mM GTP, 16 mM creatine phosphate, 0.4 mM sper-
midine and 0.3 mM of each amino acid) supplemented with
35.6 µg creatine kinase, 24 U of RNasin and 15 µl of WEPRO
2240 (Cell Free Sciences). The reaction was transferred into
a 12-kDa-MWCO dialysis cup (Cosmo Bio) suspended in a reser-
voir of dialysis buffer and incubated for 16 h at 26 °C. Detergents
and MNG amphiphiles were added when needed at 0.1 wt %
or 0.2 wt % to both the translation reaction and dialysis buffer
reservoir. After overnight incubation, the 50 µl translation reac-
tion solution was transferred to a 1.7-ml centrifuge tube and spun
at 15,000 r.p.m. in an Allegra 21R centrifuge (Beckman Coulter)
and F2402H rotor at 20 °C for 10 min. The supernatant was
removed and added to an equal volume of 2× sample buffer, while
the pellet was resuspended in 100 µl 1× sample buffer. After being
boiled for 5 min, the samples were loaded onto an SDS-PAGE gel,
electrophoresed and visualized by Coomassie staining.
initial activity of LeuT was assessed by SPA performed in the pres-
ence of 0.05% DDM or 0.042% MNG-3 and leucine (0–10−5 M,
competition binding). SPA was performed with duplicate deter-
mination of all individual data points. Samples were counted in a
MicroBeta liquid scintillation counter (PerkinElmer). Normalized
results are expressed as mean ± s.e.m.
R. capsulatus superassembly solubilization and stabilization
assay. Specialized photosynthetic membranes from an engineered
strain of R. capsulatus, U43[pUHTM86Bgl], lacking the LHII
light-harvesting complex were used as the starting material26.
The isolated flash-frozen membrane aliquots from this strain
were thawed, homogenized and equilibrated to 32 °C for 30 min.
The amphiphiles or detergents were added at the designated con-
centration to 1-ml aliquots of the membranes. After incubation
with the amphiphiles for 30 min at 32 °C, the solubilized material
was separated from the membrane debris in an ultracentrifuge at
315,000g at 4 °C for 30 min. The supernatant was transferred into
a new microcentrifuge tube containing Ni-NTA resin (Qiagen),
and then the tube was incubated and inverted for 1 h at 4 °C. Once
binding was complete, samples were loaded onto resin-retaining
spin columns (for example, emptied His SpinTrap columns; GE
Healthcare), which were then inserted into 2-ml microcentrifuge
tubes. Samples were washed twice with 0.5 ml of amphiphile-
containing binding buffer (a pH 7.8 Tris solution containing the
amphiphile at 1× CMC, 0.017 wt % above CMC, 0.2 wt % or
1.0 wt %). Finally, protein was eluted with three 0.2-liter elution
buffer aliquots (this buffer was identical to binding buffer with the
addition to 1 M of imidazole with same pH). Purified protein was
diluted with 0.4 ml of binding buffer to reach the final sample vol-
ume to 1 ml. Small aliquots (0.2 ml) of the solutions were trans-
ferred to 0.8 ml binding buffer, and UV-visible spectra of these
solutions were measured as a function of time. Degradation of the
material could be monitored with the 875 nm/680 nm absorbance
ratio, which decreased with time.
Stabilization and crystallization of cytochrome b6f /MNG-3
complex. Purification of the complex cytochrome b6f from
Chlamydomonas reinhardtii was carried out as described in
the literature27 with slight modifications to exchange DDM
for MNG-3. Briefly, after solubilization of thylakoid mem-
branes with DDM and a first ion exchange chromatography in
0.4 mM DDM, the protein was loaded on a 1-ml HiTrap chelating
Sepharose column (GE Healthcare), preloaded with nickel (Ni2+);
subsequently, the column was extensively washed with 50 ml of
0.5 mM MNG-3 in 20 mM Tris-HCl, pH 8, 250 mM NaCl and
eluted with 300 mM imidazole in the same buffer. The sample
was desalted on a Sephadex G-25 column (GE Healthcare) with
10 mM Tris-HCl, pH 8, 0.5 mM MNG-3 and concentrated with
a Vivaspin 500 (100,000 MWCO PES) concentrator (Sartorius)
from 5 to 100 µM (that is, from 0.5 to 10 mg ml−1) before crystal-
lization. All steps from purification until crystal handling were
carried out at 4 °C in a cold room. Crystallization trials used
the protocol involving vapor diffusion with the hanging-drop
technique: the protein was mixed with an equal or half volume
of reservoir solution devoid of surfactant27. The crystallization
strategy was adapted from conditions suitable for crystallization
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