MspA forms water-filled channels in the mycolic acid layer of Mycobacterium smegmatis thereby allowing the diffusion of hydrophilic solutes through this permeability barrier into the periplasm, MspA is the first member of a new family of porins and is extremely stable against chemical and thermal denaturation. We developed a purification procedure based on selective extraction of MspA with detergents from whole cells of M. smegmatis at high temperatures. Anion-exchange and size-exclusion chromatography yielded about 230 μg apparently pure and highly active MspA per liter of culture. This was a 20-fold increased yield compared to previous purification protocols. Similar amounts of pure MspA were obtained with the detergents isotridecylpolyethyleneglycolether, lauryldimethylamine oxide, and octylpolyethylene oxide indicating that this purification procedure is not restricted to a specific detergent. This study will promote the structural and functional analysis of MspA and might be valuable for the isolation of porins from other mycolic acid-containing bacteria. (C) 2000 Academic Press.