Microfluidic Platform for Efficient Nanodisc Assembly, Membrane Protein Incorporation, and Purification
The characterization of integral membrane proteins presents numerous analytical challenges on account of their poor activity under non-native conditions, limited solubility in aqueous solutions, and low expression in most cell culture systems. Nanodiscs are synthetic model membrane constructs that offer many advantages for studying membrane protein function by offering a native-like phospholipid bilayer environment. The successful incorporation of membrane proteins within Nanodiscs requires experimental optimization of conditions. Standard protocols for Nanodisc formation can require large amounts of time and input material, limiting the facile screening of formation conditions. Capitalizing on the miniaturization and efficient mass transport inherent to microfluidics, we have developed a microfluidic platform for efficient Nanodisc assembly and purification, and demonstrated the ability to incorporate functional membrane proteins into the resulting Nanodiscs. In addition to working with reduced sample volumes, this platform simplifies membrane protein incorporation from a multi-stage protocol requiring several hours or days into a single platform that outputs purified Nanodiscs in less than one hour. To demonstrate the utility of this platform, we incorporated Cytochrome P450 into Nanodiscs of variable size and lipid composition, and present spectroscopic evidence for the functional active site of the membrane protein. This platform is a promising new tool for membrane protein biology and biochemistry that enables tremendous versatility for optimizing the incorporation of membrane proteins using microfluidic gradients to screen across diverse formation conditions.