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Optimized Proteomics Workflow for the Detection of Small Proteins

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posted on 02.09.2020, 16:48 authored by Jürgen Bartel, Adithi R. Varadarajan, Thomas Sura, Christian H. Ahrens, Sandra Maaß, Dörte Becher
Small open reading frame encoded proteins (SEPs) gained increasing interest during the last few years because of their broad range of important functions in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. In bacteria, signaling, virulence, and regulation of enzyme activities have been associated with SEPs. Nonetheless, the number of SEPs detected in large-scale proteome studies is often low as classical methods are biased toward the identification of larger proteins. Here, we present a workflow that allows enhanced identification of small proteins compared to traditional protocols. For this aim, the steps of small protein enrichment, proteolytic digest, and database search were reviewed and adjusted to the special requirement of SEPs. Enrichment by the use of small-pore-sized solid-phase material increased the number of identified SEPs by a factor of 2, and utilization of alternative proteases to trypsin reduced the spectral counts for larger proteins. The application of the optimized protocol allowed the detection of 210 already annotated proteins up to 100 amino acids (aa) length, including 16 proteins below 51 aa in the Gram-positive model organism Bacillus subtilis. Moreover, 12% of all identified proteins were up to 100 aa, which is a significantly larger fraction than that reported in studies involving traditional proteomics workflows. Finally, the application of an integrated proteogenomics search database and extensive subsequent validation resulted in the confident identification of three novel, not yet annotated, SEPs, which are 21, 26, and 42 aa long.