Abstract Surfactants that can provide a more natural substitute for lipid bilayers are important in the purification and in vitro study of membrane proteins. Here we investigate the structural response of a model membrane protein, bacteriorhodopsin (BR), to phosphocholine biosurfactants. Phosphocholine biosurfactants are a type of biomimetic amphiphile that are similar to phospholipids, in which membrane proteins are commonly embedded. Multiple spectroscopic and zeta potential measurements are employed to characterize the conformational change, secondary and tertiary structure, oligomeric status, surface charge distribution and the structural stability of BR solubilized with phosphocholine biosurfactants of varying tail length. The process of phosphocholine micelle formation is found to facilitate the solubilization of BR, and for long-chain phosphocholines, concentrations much higher than their critical micelle concentrations achieve good solubilization. Phosphocholine biosurfactants are shown to be mild compared with the ionic surfactant SDS or CTAB, and tend to preserve membrane protein structure during solubilization, especially at low micelle concentrations, by virtue of their phospholipid-like zwitterionic head groups. The increase of alkyl chain length is shown to obviously enhance the capability of phosphocholine biosurfactants to stabilize BR. The underlying mechanism for the favorable actions of phosphocholine biosurfactant is also discussed.