Some amphiphilic copolymers such as diisobutylene/maleic acid (DIBMA) and styrene/maleic acid (SMA) copolymers are able to directly extract cellular membranes into nanosized polymer-bounded lipid-bilayer patches. These polymer-encapsulated nanodiscs offer the possibility to investigate delicate membrane proteins along with their surrounding lipids and, thus, protein/lipid interactions, in a near-native bilayer environment. By dissecting the kinetics of lipid exchange among DIBMA- and SMA-bounded nanodiscs, we have recently shown that the encapsulated lipid bilayer does not represent a static snapshot of the membrane at the time point of solubilisation. Instead, nanoscale lipid-bilayer patches remain in equilibrium with one another through lipid exchange enabled by nanodisc collisions. This finding is important for correctly interpreting any attempts at studying protein/lipid interactions with the aid of polymer-based nanodiscs and will be relevant to characterising the rapidly growing repertoire of new amphiphilic copolymers for membrane extraction. A highly sensitive and efficient technique for measuring the kinetics of lipid transfer among various kinds of nanosized membrane mimics consists in time-resolved Förster resonance energy transfer (TR-FRET) monitored in a stopped-flow apparatus. Here, we provide detailed instructions on how to measure the kinetics and unravel the underlying mechanisms of lipid exchange among lipid-bilayer nanodiscs under various solution conditions.
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