Advances in the use of nanoscale bilayers to study membrane protein structure and function

Biotechnol Genet Eng Rev. 2014 Oct;30(1-2):79-93. doi: 10.1080/02648725.2014.921502.


Within the last decade, nanoscale lipid bilayers have emerged as powerful experimental systems in the analysis of membrane proteins (MPs) for both basic and applied research. These discoidal lipid lamellae are stabilized by annuli of specially engineered amphipathic polypeptides (nanodiscs) or polymers (SMALPs/Lipodisqs®). As biomembrane mimetics, they are well suited for the reconstitution of MPs within a controlled lipid environment. Moreover, because they are water-soluble, they are amenable to solution-based biochemical and biophysical experimentation. Hence, due to their solubility, size, stability, and monodispersity, nanoscale lipid bilayers offer technical advantages over more traditional MP analytic approaches such as detergent solubilization and reconstitution into lipid vesicles. In this article, we review some of the most recent advances in the synthesis of polypeptide- and polymer-bound nanoscale lipid bilayers and their application in the study of MP structure and function.

Keywords: Lipodisq®; lipid; membrane protein; nanodisc.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry*
  • Membrane Fluidity*
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry*
  • Membrane Proteins / ultrastructure*
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Nanoparticles / ultrastructure*
  • Phospholipids / chemistry*
  • Protein Conformation
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Phospholipids