Towards functional proteomics of membrane protein complexes: analysis of thylakoid membranes from Chlamydomonas reinhardtii


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Functional proteomics of membrane proteins is an important tool for the understanding of protein networks in biological membranes but structural studies on this part of the proteome are limited. In this study we undertook such an approach to analyse photosynthetic thylakoid membranes isolated from wild-type and mutant strains of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Thylakoid membrane proteins were separated by high-resolution two-dimensional gel electrophoresis (2-DE) and analysed by immuno-blotting and mass spectrometry for the presence of membrane-spanning proteins. Our data show that light-harvesting complex proteins (LHCP), that cross the membrane with three transmembrane domains, can be separated using this method. We have identified more than 30 different LHCP spots on our gels. Mass spectrometric analysis of 2-DE separated Lhcb1 indicates that this major LHCII protein can associate with the thylakoid membrane with part of its putative transit sequence. Separation of isolated photosystem I (PSI) complexes by 2-DE revealed the presence of 18 LHCI protein spots. The use of two peptide-specific antibodies directed against LHCI subunits supports the interpretation that some of these spots represent products arising from differential processing and post-translational modifications. In addition our data indicate that the reaction centre subunit of PSI, PsaA, that possesses 11 transmembrane domains, can be separated by 2-DE. Comparison between 2-DE maps from thylakoid membrane proteins isolated from a PSI-deficient (Δycf4) and a crd1 mutant, which is conditionally reduced in PSI and LHCI under copper-deficiency, showed the presence of most of the LHCI spots in the former but their absence in the latter. Our data demonstrate that (i) hydrophobic membrane proteins like the LHCPs can be faithfully separated by 2-DE, and (ii) that high-resolution 2-DE facilitates the comparative analysis of membrane protein complexes in wild-type and mutants cells.