Membrane matters: The impact of a nanodisc-bilayer or a detergent microenvironment on the properties of two eubacterial rhodopsins

Biochim Biophys Acta Biomembr. 2020 Feb 1;1862(2):183113. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2019.183113. Epub 2019 Oct 28.


Multi-spanning membrane proteins usually require solubilization to allow proper purification and characterization, which generally impairs their structural and functional integrity. We have tested the efficacy of several commonly used detergents and membrane-mimicking nanodiscs with respect to solubilization, spectral properties, thermal stability and oligomeric profile of two membrane proteins from the eubacterial rhodopsin family, green proteorhodopsin (PR) and Gloeobacter violaceus rhodopsin (GR). Good solubilization was observed for the detergents TritonX-100 and dodecylphosphocholine (DPC), but DPC in particular strongly affected the thermal stability of PR and especially GR. The least deleterious effects were obtained with n-dodecyl-β-D-maltopyranoside (DDM) and octyl glucose neopentyl glycol (OGNG), which adequately stabilized the native oligomeric and monomeric state of PR and GR, respectively. The transition from the oligomeric to the monomeric state is accompanied by a small red-shift. Both GR and PR were rather unstable in SMA-nanodiscs, but the highest thermal stability was realized by the MSP-nanodisc environment. The size of the MSP-nanodisc was too small to fit the PR hexamer, but large enough to contain the PR monomer and GR trimer. This permitted the comparison of the photocycle of trimeric GR in a membrane-mimicking (MSP-nanodisc) and a detergent (DDM) environment. The ultrarapid early phase of the photocycle (femto- to picosecond lifetimes) showed very similar kinetics in either environment, but the slower part, initiated with proton transfer and generation of the M intermediate, proceeded faster in the nanodisc environment. The implications of our results for the biophysical characterization of PR and GR are discussed.

Keywords: Detergent micelles; Membrane proteins; Microbial rhodopsins; Nanodisc; Photoresponse; Thermal stability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry*
  • Cyanobacteria / chemistry
  • Detergents / chemistry
  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry*
  • Maltose / analogs & derivatives
  • Maltose / chemistry
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Phosphorylcholine / analogs & derivatives
  • Phosphorylcholine / chemistry
  • Protein Stability
  • Rhodopsin / chemistry*
  • Thioglucosides / chemistry


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Detergents
  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Thioglucosides
  • dodecyl maltopyranoside
  • Phosphorylcholine
  • dodecylphosphocholine
  • Maltose
  • n-octyl-beta-D-thioglucopyranoside
  • Rhodopsin

Supplementary concepts

  • Gloeobacter violaceus