Studying Lipid–Protein Interactions with Electron Paramagnetic Resonance Spectroscopy of Spin-Labeled Lipids

  • Tibor PáliEmail author
  • Zoltán Kóta
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 2003)


Spin label electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) of lipid–protein interactions reveals crucial features of the structure and assembly of integral membrane proteins. Spin-label EPR spectroscopy is the technique of choice to characterize the protein solvating lipid shell in its highly dynamic nature, because the EPR spectra of lipids that are spin-labeled close to the terminal methyl end of their acyl chains display two spectral components, those corresponding to lipids directly contacting the protein and those corresponding to lipids in the bulk fluid bilayer regions of the membrane. In this chapter, typical spin label EPR procedures are presented that allow determination of the stoichiometry of interaction of spin-labeled lipids with the intramembranous region of membrane proteins or polypeptides, as well as the association constant of the spin-labeled lipid with respect to the host lipid. The lipids giving rise to a so-called immobile spectral component in the EPR spectrum of such samples are identified as the motionally restricted first-shell lipids solvating membrane proteins in biomembranes. Stoichiometry and selectivity are directly related to the structure of the intramembranous sections of membrane-associated proteins or polypeptides and can be used to study the state of assembly of such proteins in the membrane. Since these characteristics of lipid–protein interactions are discussed in detail in the literature (see ref. Marsh, Eur Biophys J 39:513–525, 2010 for a recent review), here we focus more on how to spin label model membranes and biomembranes and how to measure and analyze the two-component EPR spectra of spin-labeled lipids in phospholipid bilayers that contain proteins or polypeptides. After a description of how to prepare spin-labeled model and native biological membranes, we present the reader with computational procedures for determining the molar fraction of motionally restricted lipids when both, one or none of the pure isolated—mobile or immobile—spectral components are available. With these topics, this chapter complements a previous methodological paper (Marsh, Methods 46:83–96, 2008). The interpretation of the data is discussed briefly, as well as other relevant and recent spin label EPR techniques for studying lipid–protein interactions, not only from the point of view of lipid chain dynamics.

Key words

Spin label Spin-labeled Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) Electron spin resonance (ESR) Integral membrane proteins Lipid–protein interactions Immobile and mobile membrane lipids Phospholipids Annular, solvation, motionally restricted and bulk lipids Two-component spectrum 



The library spectra used in this chapter for illustrations were recorded, and the optimized subtraction routines were first developed (by T.P.) in Derek Marsh’s laboratory in Göttingen, Germany. This work was supported in part by the Hungarian National Research Development and Innovation Fund (K112716) and also by the GINOP-2.3.2-15-2016-00001 Programme.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biological Research CentreInstitute of BiophysicsSzegedHungary

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