A comparison of SMA (styrene maleic acid) and DIBMA (di-isobutylene maleic acid) for membrane protein purification

Aiman Gulamhussein, Romez Uddin, Brian Tighe, David Poyner, Alice Rothnie*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The use of styrene maleic acid co-polymer (SMA) for membrane protein extraction and purification has grown in recent years. SMA inserts in the membrane and assembles into small discs of bilayer encircled by polymer, termed SMA lipid particles (SMALPs). This allows purification of membrane proteins whilst maintaining their lipid bilayer environment. SMALPs offer several improvements over conventional detergent approaches, however there are limitations, most notably a sensitivity to low pH and divalent cations. Recently it was shown that the aliphatic diisobutylene-maleic acid (DIBMA) copolymer, was also able to directly solubilise membranes forming DIBMALPs (DIBMA lipid particles), and that this polymer overcame some of the limitations of SMA. In this study the ability of DIBMA to solubilise and purify functional membrane proteins has been compared to SMA. It was found that DIBMA is able to solubilise several different membrane proteins from different expression systems, however for some proteins it gives a lower yield and lower degree of purity than SMA. DIBMA extracted G protein-coupled receptors retain ligand- and G protein-binding. DIBMALPS are larger than SMALPs and display a decreased sensitivity to magnesium. However the stability of DIBMALPs appears to be lower than SMALPs. The lower purity and lower stability are likely linked to the larger size of the DIBMALP particle. However, this also offers a potentially less rigid lipid environment which may be more amenable to protein dynamics. Therefore the optimal choice of polymer will depend on which features of a protein are to be investigated.

Original languageEnglish
Article number183281
JournalBBA -Biomembranes
Issue number7
Early online date21 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020

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© 2020, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/


  • ABC transporter
  • GPCR
  • Membrane protein


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