Lipid vesicle formation by encapsulation of SMALPs in surfactant-stabilised droplets.

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Lipid vesicle formation by encapsulation of SMALPs in surfactant-stabilised droplets.


Waeterschoot, J.; Barniol-Xicota, M.; Verhelst, S.; Baatsen, P.; Koos, E.; Lammertyn, J.; Casadevall i Solvas, X.


Understanding the intricate functions of membrane proteins is pivotal in cell biology and drug discovery. The composition of the cell membrane is highly complex, with different types of membrane proteins and a huge variety of lipid species, Hence, studying cellular membranes in a complexity-reduced context is important to enhance our understanding of the roles of the different elements. However, reconstitution of membrane proteins in an environment that closely mimics the cell, like giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs), remains challenging, often requiring detergents that compromise protein function. To address this challenge, we present a novel strategy to manufacture GUVs from styrene maleic acid lipid particles (SMALPs) that utilises surfactant-stabilised droplets as a template. Harnessing a new form of SMA linked to fluorescein, which we call FSMA, we demonstrate the assembly of SMALPs at the surfactant-stabilised droplet interface, resulting in the formation of GUVs when released upon addition of a demulsifying agent. The released vesicles appear similar to electroformed vesicles imaged with confocal light microscopy, but a fluorescein leakage assay and cryo-TEM imaging reveal their porous nature, potentially the result of residual interactions of SMA with the lipid bilayer. Our study represents a significant step towards opening new avenues for comprehensive protein research in a complexity-reduced, yet biologically relevant, setting.

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