Year of Publication
Single-particle electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) has become a popular method for high-resolution study of the structural and functional properties of proteins. However, sufficient expression and purification of membrane proteins holds many challenges. We describe methods to overcome these obstacles using ClC-rm1, a prokaryotic chloride channel (ClC) family protein from Ralstonia metallidurans, overexpressed in Escherichia coli (E. coli) BL21(DE3) strain. Mass spectrometry and electron microscopy analyses of purified samples revealed multiple contaminants that can obfuscate results of subsequent high-resolution structural analysis. Here we describe the systematic optimization of sample preparation procedures, including expression systems, solubilization techniques, purification protocols, and contamination detection. We found that expressing ClC-rm1 in E. coli BL21(DE3) and using n-dodecyl-β-D-maltopyranoside as a detergent for solubilization and purification steps resulted in the highest quality samples of those we tested. However, although protein yield, sample stability, and the resolution of structural detail were improved following these changes, we still detected contaminants including Acriflavine resistant protein AcrB. AcrB was particularly difficult to remove as it co-purified with ClC-rm1 due to four intrinsic histidine residues at its C-terminus that bind to affinity resins. We were able to obtain properly folded pure ClC-rm1 by adding eGFP to the C-terminus and overexpressing the protein in the ΔacrB variant of the JW0451-2 E. coli strain.