Investigative systems for purified membrane transporters are almost exclusively reliant on the use of phospholipid vesicles or liposomes. Liposomes provide an environment to support protein function; however, they also have numerous drawbacks and should not be considered as a “one-size fits all” system. The use of artificial vesicles comprising block co-polymers (polymersomes) offers considerable advantages in terms of structural stability; provision of sufficient lateral pressure; and low passive permeability, which is a particular issue for transport assays using hydrophobic compounds. The present investigation demonstrates strategies to reconstitute ATP binding cassette (ABC) transporters into hybrid vesicles combining phospholipids and the block co-polymer poly (butadiene)-poly (ethylene oxide). Two efflux pumps were chosen; namely the Novosphingobium aromaticivorans
Atm1 protein and human P-glycoprotein (Pgp). Polymersomes were generated with one of two lipid partners, either purified palmitoyl-oleoyl-phosphatidylcholine, or a mixture of crude E. coli
lipid extract and cholesterol. Hybrid polymersomes were characterised for size, structural homogeneity, stability to detergents, and permeability. Two transporters, NaAtm1 and P-gp, were successfully reconstituted into pre-formed and surfactant-destabilised hybrid polymersomes using a detergent adsorption strategy. Reconstitution of both proteins was confirmed by density gradient centrifugation and the hybrid polymersomes supported substrate dependent ATPase activity of both transporters. The hybrid polymersomes also displayed low passive permeability to a fluorescent probe (calcein acetomethoxyl-ester (C-AM)) and offer the potential for quantitative measurements of transport activity for hydrophobic compounds.
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