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Assembly of phospholipid nanodiscs of controlled size for structural studies of membrane proteins by NMR.

  • Hagn, Franz1, 2
  • Nasr, Mahmoud L3
  • Wagner, Gerhard3
  • 1 Center for Integrated Protein Science Munich (CIPSM) at the Department of Chemistry and Institute for Advanced Study, Technical University of Munich, Garching, Germany. , (Germany)
  • 2 Helmholtz Center Munich, Institute of Structural Biology, Neuherberg, Germany. , (Germany)
  • 3 Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Published Article
Nature protocols
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2018
DOI: 10.1038/nprot.2017.094
PMID: 29215632


Suitable membrane mimetics are crucial to the performance of structural and functional studies of membrane proteins. Phospholipid nanodiscs (formed when a membrane scaffold protein encircles a small portion of a lipid bilayer) have native-like membrane properties. These have been used for a variety of functional studies, but structural studies by high-resolution solution-state NMR spectroscopy of membrane proteins in commonly used nanodiscs of 10-nm diameter were limited by the high molecular weight of these particles, which caused unfavorably large NMR line widths. We have recently constructed truncated versions of the membrane scaffold protein, allowing the preparation of a range of stepwise-smaller nanodiscs (6- to 8-nm diameter) to overcome this limitation. Here, we present a protocol on the assembly of phospholipid nanodiscs of various sizes for structural studies of membrane proteins with solution-state NMR spectroscopy. We describe specific isotope-labeling schemes required for working with large membrane protein systems in nanodiscs, and provide guidelines on the setup of NMR non-uniform sampling (NUS) data acquisition and high-resolution NMR spectra reconstruction. We discuss critical points and pitfalls relating to optimization of nanodiscs for NMR spectroscopy and outline a strategy for the high-resolution structure determination and positioning of isotope-labeled membrane proteins in nanodiscs using nuclear Overhauser enhancement spectroscopy (NOESY) spectroscopy, residual dipolar couplings (RDCs) and paramagnetic relaxation enhancements (PREs). Depending on the target protein of interest, nanodisc assembly and purification can be achieved within 12-24 h. Although the focus of this protocol is on protein NMR, these nanodiscs can also be used for (cryo-) electron microscopy (EM) and small-angle X-ray and neutron-scattering studies.

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