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Note: Research in this publication was not performed at Janelia.
The structure of aquaporin-0 (AQP0) has recently been determined by electron crystallography of two-dimensional (2D) crystals and by X-ray crystallography of three-dimensional (3D) crystals. The electron crystallographic structure revealed nine lipids per AQP0 monomer, which form an almost complete bilayer. The lipids adopt a wide variety of conformations and tightly fill the space between adjacent AQP0 tetramers. The conformations of the lipid acyl chains appear to be determined not only by the protein surface but also by the acyl chains of adjacent lipid molecules. In the X-ray structure, the hydrophobic region of the protein is surrounded by a detergent micelle, with two ordered detergent molecules per AQP0 monomer. Despite the different environments, the electron crystallographic and X-ray structures of AQP0 are virtually identical, but they differ in the temperature factors of the atoms that either contact the lipids in the 2D crystals or are exposed to detergents in the 3D crystals. The temperature factors are higher in the X-ray structure, suggesting that the detergent-exposed AQP0 residues are less ordered than the corresponding ones contacting lipids in the 2D crystals. An examination of ordered detergent molecules in crystal structures of other aquaporins and of lipid molecules in 2D and 3D crystals of bacteriorhodopsin suggests that the increased conformational variability of detergent-exposed residues compared to lipid-contacting residues is a general feature.