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Purification of membrane proteins for biochemical and structural studies is commonly achieved by recombinant overexpression in heterologous cell lines. However, many membrane proteins do not form a functional complex in a heterologous system, and few methods exist to purify sufficient protein from a native source for use in biochemical, biophysical and structural studies. Here, we provide a detailed protocol for the isolation of membrane protein complexes from transgenic Caenorhabditis elegans. We describe how to grow a genetically modified C. elegans line in abundance using standard laboratory equipment, and how to optimize purification conditions on a small scale using fluorescence-detection size-exclusion chromatography. Optimized conditions can then be applied to a large-scale preparation, enabling the purification of adequate quantities of a target protein for structural, biochemical and biophysical studies. Large-scale worm growth can be accomplished in ~9 d, and each optimization experiment can be completed in less than 1 d. We have used these methods to isolate the transmembrane channel-like protein 1 complex, as well as three additional protein complexes (transmembrane-like channel 2, lipid transfer protein and 'Protein S'), from transgenic C. elegans, demonstrating the utility of this approach in purifying challenging, low-abundance membrane protein complexes.

Original publication




Journal article


Nature protocols

Publication Date





2699 - 2716


Vollum Institute, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR, USA.


Cell Line, Animals, Animals, Genetically Modified, Caenorhabditis elegans, Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins, Membrane Proteins, Chromatography, Gel