Photosystem I (PSI) from the thermophilic cyanobacterium Thermosynechococcus elongatus (Te) is the largest membrane protein complex to have had its structure solved by X-ray diffraction. This trimeric complex has 36 protein subunits, over 380 non-covalently bound cofactors and a molecular weight of ∼1.2 MDa. Previously, it has been isolated and characterized in a detergent micelle using the non-ionic detergent n-dodecyl-β-D-maltoside (DDM). We have now succeeded in isolating this complex without the use of detergents, using styrene–maleic acid (SMA) alternating copolymer. Intriguingly, a partially esterified copolymer formulation (SMA 1440, Cray Valley) was found to be most efficient in cyanobacterial thylakoid membranes. A host of biochemical, biophysical and functional assays have been applied to characterize this non-detergent form of PSI, referred to as a SMA Lipid Particle (SMALP). The PSI-SMALP has a lower sedimentation coefficient compared to PSI-DDM, suggesting decreased density or a more extended particle shape. We show the 77 K fluorescence maximum for PSI is red shifted in PSI-SMALP compared to PSI-DDM, suggesting a more native orientation of PsaA/B associated chlorophyll. We report that PSI-SMALPs are functional despite the selective loss of one transmembrane subunit, PsaF. This loss may reflect a more labile interaction of the PSI core and PsaF, or a selective displacement during copolymer insertion and/or assembly. PSI-SMALP exhibited decreased reduction kinetics with native recombinant cytochromes c6, while non-native horse heart cytochrome c shows faster reduction of PSI-SMALP compared to PSI-DDM. This is the largest membrane protein isolated using SMA copolymers, and this study expands the potential use of this approach for the isolation and characterization of large supramolecular complexes.
Brady, Nathan G.; Li, Meng; Ma, Yue; Gumbart, James C.; and Bruce, Barry D., "Non-detergent isolation of a cyanobacterial photosystem I using styrene maleic acid alternating copolymers" (2019). Faculty Publications and Other Works -- Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology.