Over the past few decades, studies on the red blood cell (RBC) membrane gave rise to increasingly sophisticated although divergent models of its structural organization, since investigations were often performed in denaturing conditions using detergents. To access soluble isolated RBC membrane complexes with the preservation of their interactions and conformations, we decided to apply the recent SMALP (Styrene Maleic Acid Lipid Particles) technology to RBC ghosts. Depending on the ionic strength of buffers in which ghost membranes were resuspended, the isolated proteins within SMALPs could differ on Coomassie-stained gels, but with few changes when compared to ghost membrane SDS lysates. We subsequently produced SMALPs derived from ghosts from two different blood group phenotypes, RhD-positive and RhD-negative, both types of RBC expressing the RhCE proteins but only RhD-positive cells being able to express the RhD proteins. This allowed the isolation, by size exclusion chromatography (SEC), of soluble fractions containing the Rh complex, including the RhD protein or not, within SMALPs. The use a conformation-dependent anti-RhD antibody in immunoprecipitation studies performed on SEC fractions of SMALPs containing Rh proteins clearly demonstrated that the RhD protein, which was only present in SMALPs prepared from RhD-positive RBC ghosts, has preserved at least one important conformational RhD epitope. This approach opens new perspectives in the field of the erythroid membrane study, such as visualization of RBC membrane complexes in native conditions by cryo-electron microscopy (CryoEM) or immuno-tests with conformation-dependent antibodies against blood group antigens on separated and characterized SMALPs containing RBC membrane proteins.
Keywords: Blood group antigens; Membrane proteins; Nanoparticles; Red blood cell; SMALP.
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