Quantification of Membrane Protein-Detergent Complex Interactions

J Phys Chem B. 2017 Nov 9;121(44):10228-10241. doi: 10.1021/acs.jpcb.7b08045. Epub 2017 Oct 31.


Although fundamentally significant in structural, chemical, and membrane biology, the interfacial protein-detergent complex (PDC) interactions have been modestly examined because of the complicated behavior of both detergents and membrane proteins in aqueous phase. Membrane proteins are prone to unproductive aggregation resulting from poor detergent solvation, but the participating forces in this phenomenon remain ambiguous. Here, we show that using rational membrane protein design, targeted chemical modification, and steady-state fluorescence polarization spectroscopy, the detergent desolvation of membrane proteins can be quantitatively evaluated. We demonstrate that depleting the detergent in the sample well produced a two-state transition of membrane proteins between a fully detergent-solvated state and a detergent-desolvated state, the nature of which depended on the interfacial PDC interactions. Using a panel of six membrane proteins of varying hydrophobic topography, structural fingerprint, and charge distribution on the solvent-accessible surface, we provide direct experimental evidence for the contributions of the electrostatic and hydrophobic interactions to the protein solvation properties. Moreover, all-atom molecular dynamics simulations report the major contribution of the hydrophobic forces exerted at the PDC interface. This semiquantitative approach might be extended in the future to include studies of the interfacial PDC interactions of other challenging membrane protein systems of unknown structure. This would have practical importance in protein extraction, solubilization, stabilization, and crystallization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Detergents / chemistry*
  • Fluorescence Polarization
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
  • Membrane Proteins / chemical synthesis
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry*
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation


  • Detergents
  • Membrane Proteins