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Amphiphile selection is a critical step for structural studies of membrane proteins (MPs). We have developed a family of steroid-based facial amphiphiles (FAs) that are structurally distinct from conventional detergents and previously developed FAs. The unique FAs stabilize MPs and form relatively small protein-detergent complexes (PDCs), a property considered favorable for MP crystallization. We attempted to crystallize several MPs belonging to different protein families, including the human gap junction channel protein connexin 26, the ATP binding cassette transporter MsbA, the seven-transmembrane G protein-coupled receptor-like bacteriorhodopsin, and cytochrome P450s (peripheral MPs). Using FAs alone or mixed with other detergents or lipids, we obtained 3D crystals of the above proteins suitable for X-ray crystallographic analysis. The fact that FAs enhance MP crystallizability compared with traditional detergents can be attributed to several properties, including increased protein stability, formation of small PDCs, decreased PDC surface flexibility, and potential to mediate crystal lattice contacts.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





E1203 - E1211


Crystallography, X-Ray, Gap Junctions, Humans, Membrane Proteins, Protein Stability, Steroids, Surface-Active Agents