The structure of bacterial outer membrane proteins

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2002 Oct 11;1565(2):308-17. doi: 10.1016/s0005-2736(02)00577-1.


Integral membrane proteins come in two types, alpha-helical and beta-barrel proteins. In both types, all hydrogen bonding donors and acceptors of the polypeptide backbone are completely compensated and buried while nonpolar side chains point to the membrane. The alpha-helical type is more abundant and occurs in cytoplasmic (or inner) membranes, whereas the beta-barrels are known from outer membranes of bacteria. The beta-barrel construction is described by the number of strands and the shear number, which is a measure for the inclination angle of the beta-strands against the barrel axis. The common right-handed beta-twist requires shear numbers slightly larger than the number of strands. Membrane protein beta-barrels contain between 8 and 22 beta-strands and have a simple topology that is probably enforced by the folding process. The smallest barrels form inverse micelles and work as enzymes or they bind to other macromolecules. The medium-range barrels form more or less specific pores for nutrient uptake, whereas the largest barrels occur in active Fe(2+) transporters. The beta-barrels are suitable objects for channel engineering, because the structures are simple and because many of these proteins can be produced into inclusion bodies and recovered therefrom in the exact native conformation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / chemistry*
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / physiology
  • Crystallization
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Models, Molecular
  • Porins / chemical synthesis
  • Porins / chemistry
  • Porins / physiology
  • Protein Engineering
  • Solubility


  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • Porins