Simplified proteomics approach to discover protein–ligand interactions

Authors

  • Youngil Chang,

    1. Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907
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  • Jonathan P. Schlebach,

    1. Interdisciplinary Life Science Graduate Program, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907
    Current affiliation:
    1. Jonathan P. Schlebach's current address is Department of Biochemistry, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN 37232
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  • Ross A. VerHeul,

    1. Interdisciplinary Life Science Graduate Program, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907
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  • Chiwook Park

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907
    2. Interdisciplinary Life Science Graduate Program, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907
    3. Bindley Bioscience Center, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907
    • 575 Stadium Mall Drive, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907

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Abstract

Identifying targets of biologically active small molecules is an essential but still challenging task in drug research and chemical genetics. Energetics-based target identification is an approach that utilizes the change in the conformational stabilities of proteins upon ligand binding in order to identify target proteins. Different from traditional affinity-based capture approaches, energetics-based methods do not require any labeling or immobilization of the test molecule. Here, we report a surprisingly simple version of energetics-based target identification, which only requires ion exchange chromatography, SDS PAGE, and minimal use of mass spectrometry. The complexity of a proteome is reduced through fractionation by ion exchange chromatography. Urea-induced unfolding of proteins in each fraction is then monitored by the significant increase in proteolytic susceptibility upon unfolding in the presence and the absence of a ligand. Proteins showing a different degree of unfolding with the ligand are identified by SDS PAGE followed by mass spectrometry. Using this approach, we identified ATP-binding proteins in the Escherichia coli proteome. In addition to known ATP-binding proteins, we also identified a number of proteins that were not previously known to interact with ATP. To validate one such finding, we cloned and purified phosphoglyceromutase, which was not previously known to bind ATP, and confirmed that ATP indeed stabilizes this protein. The combination of fractionation and pulse proteolysis offers an opportunity to investigate protein–drug or protein–metabolite interactions on a proteomic scale with minimal instrumentation and without modification of a molecule of interest.

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