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Designing Mixed Detergent Micelles for Uniform Neutron Contrast...

by Ryan C Oliver, Sai Venkatesh Pingali, Volker S Urban
Publication Type
Journal Name
Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters
Publication Date
Page Numbers
5041 to 5046

Micelle-forming detergents provide an amphipathic environment that mimics lipid bilayers and are important tools used to solubilize and stabilize membrane proteins in solution for in vitro structural investigations. Small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) performed at the neutron contrast match point of detergent molecules allows observing the scattering signal from membrane proteins unobstructed by contributions from the detergent. However, we show here that even for a perfectly average-contrast matched detergent there arises significant core-shell scattering from the contrast difference between aliphatic detergent tails and hydrophilic head groups. This residual signal at the average detergent contrast match point interferes with interpreting structural data of membrane proteins. This complication is often made worse by the presence of excess empty (protein-free) micelles. We present an approach for the rational design of mixed micelles containing a deuterated detergent analog, which eliminates neutron contrast between core and shell, and allows the micelle scattering to be fully contrast matched to unambiguously resolve membrane protein structure using solution SANS.