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Langmuir. 2014 Aug 19;30(32):9780-8. doi: 10.1021/la5025058. Epub 2014 Aug 6.

Analysis of lipid phase behavior and protein conformational changes in nanolipoprotein particles upon entrapment in sol-gel-derived silica.

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Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and ‡Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, University of California Davis , Davis, California 95616, United States.


The entrapment of nanolipoprotein particles (NLPs) and liposomes in transparent, nanoporous silica gel derived from the precursor tetramethylorthosilicate was investigated. NLPs are discoidal patches of lipid bilayer that are belted by amphiphilic scaffold proteins and have an average thickness of 5 nm. The NLPs in this work had a diameter of roughly 15 nm and utilized membrane scaffold protein (MSP), a genetically altered variant of apolipoprotein A-I. Liposomes have previously been examined inside of silica sol-gels and have been shown to exhibit instability. This is attributed to their size (∼150 nm) and altered structure and constrained lipid dynamics upon entrapment within the nanometer-scale pores (5-50 nm) of the silica gel. By contrast, the dimensional match of NLPs with the intrinsic pore sizes of silica gel opens the possibility for their entrapment without disruption. Here we demonstrate that NLPs are more compatible with the nanometer-scale size of the porous environment by analysis of lipid phase behavior via fluorescence anisotropy and analysis of scaffold protein secondary structure via circular dichroism spectroscopy. Our results showed that the lipid phase behavior of NLPs entrapped inside of silica gel display closer resemblance to its solution behavior, more so than liposomes, and that the MSP in the NLPs maintain the high degree of α-helix secondary structure associated with functional protein-lipid interactions after entrapment. We also examined the effects of residual methanol on lipid phase behavior and the size of NLPs and found that it exerts different influences in solution and in silica gel; unlike in free solution, silica entrapment may be inhibiting NLP size increase and/or aggregation. These findings set precedence for a bioinorganic hybrid nanomaterial that could incorporate functional integral membrane proteins.

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