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Electron cryomicroscopy of bacteriorhodopsin vesicles - mechanism of vesicle formation

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Denkov, N. D., Yoshimura, H., Kouyama, T., Walz, J., & Nagayama, K. (1998). Electron cryomicroscopy of bacteriorhodopsin vesicles - mechanism of vesicle formation. Biophysical Journal, 74(3), 1409-1420.

We obtained vesicles from purple membrane of Halobacterium halobium at different suspension compositions (pH, electrolytes, buffers), following the procedure of Kouyama et al. (1994) (J. Mol. Biol. 236:990-994), The vesicles contained bacteriorhodopsin (bR) and halolipid, and spontaneously formed during incubation of purple membrane suspension in the presence of detergent octylthioglucoside (OTG) if the protein:OTG ratio was 2:1 by weight. The size distribution of the vesicles was precisely determined by electron cryomicroscopy and was found to be almost independent on the incubation conditions (mean radius 17.9-19 nm). The size distribution in a given sample was close to the normal one, with a standard deviation of similar to+/-1 nm, During dialysis for removal of the detergent, the vesicles diminished their radius by 2-2.5 nm. The results allow us to conclude that the driving force for the formation of bR vesicles is the preferential incorporation of OTG molecules in the cytoplasmic side of the membrane (with possible preferential delipidation of the extracellular side), which creates spontaneous curvature of the purple membrane. From the size distribution of the vesicles, we calculated the elasticity bending constant, K-B approximate to 9 x 10(-20) J, of the vesicle wall. The results provide some insight into the possible formation mechanisms of spherical assembles in living organisms. The conditions for vesicle formation and the mechanical properties of the vesicles could also be of interest with respect to the potential technological application of the bR vesicles as light energy converters. [References: 51]