International Union of Crystallography, Acta Crystallographica. Section d, Structural Biology, 12(74), p. 1192-1199, 2018
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Detergent micelles can solubilize membrane proteins, but there is always a need for a pool of free detergent at the critical micellar concentration to maintain the micelle–monomer equilibrium. Amphipol polymeric surfactants (APols) have been developed to replace conventional detergents in membrane-protein studies, but the role of free amphipol is unclear. It has previously been shown that the removal of free APol causes monodisperse outer membrane protein F (OmpF) to form long filaments. However, any remaining APol could not be resolved using electron microscopy. Here, small-angle neutron scattering with isotope contrast matching was used to separately determine the distributions of membrane protein and amphipol in a mixed sample. The data showed that after existing free amphipol had been removed from monodisperse complexes, a new equilibrium was established between protein–amphipol filaments and a pool of newly liberated free amphipol. The filaments consisted of OmpF proteins surrounded by a belt of Apol, whilst free oblate spheroid micelles of Apol were also present. No indications of long-range order were observed, suggesting a lack of defined structure in the filaments.