Membranes under the Magnetic Lens: A Dive into the Diverse World of Membrane Protein Structures Using Cryo-EM

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Membrane proteins are highly diverse in both structure and function and can, therefore, present different challenges for structure determination. They are biologically important for cells and organisms as gatekeepers for information and molecule transfer across membranes, but each class of membrane proteins can present unique obstacles to structure determination. Historically, many membrane protein structures have been investigated using highly engineered constructs or using larger fusion proteins to improve solubility and/or increase particle size. Other strategies included the deconstruction of the full-length protein to target smaller soluble domains. These manipulations were often required for crystal formation to support X-ray crystallography or to circumvent lower resolution due to high noise and dynamic motions of protein subdomains. However, recent revolutions in membrane protein biochemistry and cryo-electron microscopy now provide an opportunity to solve high resolution structures of both large, >1 megadalton (MDa), and small, <100 kDa (kDa), drug targets in near-native conditions, routinely reaching resolutions around or below 3 Å. This review provides insights into how the recent advances in membrane biology and biochemistry, as well as technical advances in cryo-electron microscopy, help us to solve structures of a large variety of membrane protein groups, from small receptors to large transporters and more complex machineries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13989–14017
Number of pages29
JournalChemical Reviews
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2022

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