MspA is the major porin of Mycobacterium smegmatis mediating the exchange of hydrophilic solutes across the outer membrane (OM). It is the prototype of a new family of octameric porins with a single central channel of 9.6nmin length and consists of two hydrophobic β-barrels of 3.7 nm in length and a more hydrophilic, globular rim domain. The length of the hydrophobic domain of MspA does not match the thicknesses of mycobacterial OMs of 5-12 nm as derived from electron micrographs. Further, the membrane topology of MspA is unknown as it is for any other mycobacterial OM protein. We used MspA as a molecular ruler to define the boundaries of the OM of M. smegmatis by surface labeling of single cysteine mutants. Seventeen mutants covered the surface of the rim domain and were biotinylated with a membrane-impermeable reagent. The label efficiencies in vitro were remarkably similar to the predicted accessibilities of the cysteines. By contrast, six of these mutants were protected from biotinylation in M. smegmatis cells. Tryptophan 21 defines a horizontal plane that dissects the surface-exposed versus the membrane-protected residues of MspA. The 8 phenylalanines at position 99 form a ring at the periplasmic end of the hydrophobic β-barrel domain. These results indicated that (i) the membrane boundaries of MspA are defined by aromatic girdles as in porins of Gram-negative bacteria and (ii) loops and a 3.4-nm-long part of the hydrophilic rim domain are embedded into the OM of M. smegmatis. This is the first report suggesting that elements other than hydrophobic α-helices or β-sheets are integrated into a lipid membrane. © 2006 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.