The Role of the Membrane in Transporter Folding and Activity

J Mol Biol. 2021 Aug 6;433(16):167103. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2021.167103. Epub 2021 Jun 15.


The synthesis, folding, and function of membrane transport proteins are critical factors for defining cellular physiology. Since the stability of these proteins evolved amidst the lipid bilayer, it is no surprise that we are finding that many of these membrane proteins demonstrate coupling of their structure or activity in some way to the membrane. More and more transporter structures are being determined with some information about the surrounding membrane, and computational modeling is providing further molecular details about these solvation structures. Thus, the field is moving towards identifying which molecular mechanisms - lipid interactions, membrane perturbations, differential solvation, and bulk membrane effects - are involved in linking membrane energetics to transporter stability and function. In this review, we present an overview of these mechanisms and the growing evidence that the lipid bilayer is a major determinant of the fold, form, and function of membrane transport proteins in membranes.

Keywords: folding; function; lipid bilayer; membrane; oligomerization; transporter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Membrane / chemistry*
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / chemistry*
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Protein Folding*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Membrane Transport Proteins