Integral membrane proteins often present daunting challenges for biophysical characterization, a fundamental issue being how to select a surfactant that will optimally preserve the individual structure and functional properties of a given membrane protein. Bacterial reaction centers offer a rare opportunity to compare the properties of an integral membrane protein in different artificial lipid/surfactant environments with those in the native bilayer. Here, we demonstrate that reaction centers purified using a styrene maleic acid copolymer remain associated with a complement of native lipids and do not display the modified functional properties that typically result from detergent solubilization. Direct comparisons show that reaction centers are more stable in this copolymer/lipid environment than in a detergent micelle or even in the native membrane, suggesting a promising new route to exploitation of such photovoltaic integral membrane proteins in device applications.
Keywords: detergents; membrane proteins; nanodiscs; reaction centers; styrene maleic acid.
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