Z-membranes: Artificial organelles for overexpressing recombinant integral membrane proteins

Fang Cheng Gong, Thomas H. Giddings, Janet B. Meehl, L. Andrew Staehelin, David W. Galbraith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


We have expressed a fusion protein formed between the avian infectious bronchitis virus M protein and the bacterial enzyme β-glucuronidase in transgenic tobacco cells. Electron microscope images of such cells demonstrate that overexpression of this fusion protein gives rise to a type of endoplasmic reticulum membrane domain in which adjacent membranes become zippered together apparently as a consequence of the oligomerizing action of β-glucuronidase. These zippered (Z-) membranes lack markers of the endoplasmic reticulum (NADH cytochrome c reductase and ribosomes) and accumulate in the cells in the form of multilayered scroll-like structures (up to 2 μm in diameter; 20-50 per cell) without affecting plant growth. The discovery of Z-membranes has broad implications for biology and biotechnology in that they provide a means for accumulating large quantities of recombinant membrane proteins within discrete domains of native membranes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2219-2223
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 5 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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