Efforts to characterize proteins found in the outer membrane (OM) of Gram-negative bacteria have been steadily increasing due to the promise of expanding our understanding of fundamental bacterial processes such as cell adhesion or cell wall biogenesis as well as the promise of finding potential vaccine- or drug-targets for virulent bacteria. We have developed a mass spectrometry-compatible experimental strategy that resulted in increased coverage of the OM proteome of a model organism, Caulobacter crescentus. The specificity of the OM enrichment step was improved by using detergent solubilization of the protein pellet, low-density cell culture conditions, and a surface-layer deficient cell line. Additionally, efficient gel-assisted digestion, high-resolution RP/RP-MS/MS, and rigorous bioinformatic analysis led to the identification of 234 proteins using strict identification criteria (≥two unique peptides per protein; peptide false discovery rate <2%). Eighty-four of the detected proteins were predicted to localize to the OM or extracellular space. These results represent ∼70% coverage of the predicted OM/extracellular proteome of C. crescentus. This analytical approach, which considers important experimental variables not previously explored in published OM protein studies, can be applied to other OM proteomic endeavors “as is” or with slight modification and should improve the large-scale study of this especially challenging subproteome.
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