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© 2017, International Union for Pure and Applied Biophysics (IUPAB) and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany. Detergents are amphiphilic molecules widely used to solubilize biological membranes and/or extract their components. Nevertheless, because of the complex composition of biomembranes, their solubilization by detergents has not been systematically studied. In this review, we address the solubilization of erythrocytes, which provide a relatively simple, robust and easy to handle biomembrane, and of biomimetic models, to stress the role of the lipid composition on the solubilization process. First, results of a systematic study on the solubilization of human erythrocyte membranes by different series of non-ionic (Triton, CxEy, Brij, Renex, Tween), anionic (bile salts) and zwitterionic (ASB, CHAPS) detergents are shown. Such quantitative approach allowed us to propose R e sat —the effective detergent/lipid molar ratio in the membrane for the onset of hemolysis as a new parameter to classify the solubilization efficiency of detergents. Second, detergent-resistant membranes (DRMs) obtained as a result of the partial solubilization of erythrocytes by TX-100, C 12 E 8 and Brij detergents are examined. DRMs were characterized by their cholesterol, sphingolipid and specific proteins content, as well as lipid packing. Finally, lipid bilayers of tuned lipid composition forming liposomes were used to investigate the solubilization process of membranes of different compositions/phases induced by Triton X-100. Optical microscopy of giant unilamellar vesicles revealed that pure phospholipid membranes are fully solubilized, whereas the presence of cholesterol renders the mixture partially or even fully insoluble, depending on the composition. Additionally, Triton X-100 induced phase separation in raft-like mixtures, and selective solubilization of the fluid phase only.

Original publication




Journal article


Biophysical Reviews

Publication Date





649 - 667