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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2005 Oct 1;1716(1):59-68.

Using micellar mole fractions to assess membrane protein stability in mixed micelles.

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Department of Life Sciences, Aalborg University, Sohngaardsholmsvej 49, DK-9000 Aalborg, Denmark.


The increased focus on the structural and physical properties of membrane proteins has made it critical to develop methods that provide a reliable estimate of membrane protein stability. A simple approach is to monitor the protein's conformational changes in mixed detergent systems, typically consisting of an anionic (denaturing) and non-ionic (non-denaturing) component. Linear correlations between, e.g., the melting temperature and the bulk mole fraction of the anionic component have been observed. However, a potential complication is that the bulk mole fraction is not identical to the mole fraction in the mixed micelle, which is the local environment experienced by the membrane protein. Here, we present an extensive analysis of the thermal stability of the membrane-integrated domain of the outer membrane protein AIDA in the presence of different mixed micelles. In the micelle system SDS-octyl-polyoxyethylene, the melting temperature in the absence of SDS extrapolates to 113 degrees C using bulk mole fractions. However, for mixed micelles involving short-chain detergents or phospholipids, the melting temperature calculated using bulk mole fractions reaches values up to several hundred degrees higher than 113 degrees C and can only be obtained by extrapolation over a narrow mole fraction interval. Furthermore, there is a non-linear relationship between the melting temperature and bulk mole fractions for mixed micelle systems involving cationic detergents (also denaturing). We show that if we instead use the micellar mole fraction as a parameter for denaturing detergent strength, we obtain linear correlations which extrapolate to more or less the same value of the melting temperature. There remains some scatter in the extrapolated values of the melting temperature in different binary systems, which suggest that additional micellar interactions may play a role. Nevertheless, in general terms, the mixed micellar composition is a good parameter to describe the membrane protein's microenvironment. Note, however, that for the mixed micelle system involving SDS and dodecyl maltoside, which has been used by several research groups to determine membrane protein stability, the estimate provided by bulk mole fraction leads to similar values as that of micellar mole fractions.

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