Currently, membrane proteins only comprise 1.5% of the protein data bank and, thus, still remain a challenge for structural biologists. Expression, stabilization in membrane mimics (e.g. detergent), heterogeneity (conformational and chemical), and crystallization in the presence of a membrane mimic are four major bottlenecks encountered. In response, several post-expression protein modifications have been utilized to facilitate structure determination of membrane proteins. This review highlights four approaches: limited proteolysis, deglycosylation, cysteine alkylation, and lysine methylation. Combined these approaches have facilitated the structure determination of more than 40 membrane proteins and, therefore, are a useful addition to the membrane protein structural biologist's toolkit.
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