We have solubilized and reassembled the peripheral-type benzodiazepine receptor, a component of the mitochondrial outer membrane, from rat adrenal gland mitochondria. The ligand binding site of this receptor undergoes denaturation during solubilization in digitonin, Triton X-100, or 3-[(3-chol-amidopropyl)dimethylammonio]-1-propanesulfonate at detergent concentrations above 0.1%, which is evident from the loss of high-affinity binding of [3H]PK11195, a ligand selective for the mitochondrial benzodiazepine receptor. The conformation of the binding site for PK11195 can be stabilized during solubilization in sodium cholate by relatively low concentrations of supplementary soybean lipid. Drug displacement studies demonstrate that the pharmacological properties of the receptor are preserved under these conditions. Electron micrographs of the solubilized preparation show a heterogeneous population of many small particles (<100 Å) and some larger membranous aggregates (up to 500 Å). Sucrose gradient centrifugation indicates that these lipoprotein complexes are of high buoyant density. They can be incorporated in liposomes via cholate dialysis in the presence of additional supplementary lipid. The behavior of the mitochondrial benzodiazepine receptor during solubilization and reassembly suggests that it is an integral protein of the outer membrane.
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