The growth of all microorganisms is limited to a specific temperature range. However, it has not previously been determined to what extent global protein profiles change in response to temperatures that incrementally span the complete growth temperature range of a microorganism. As a result it has remained unclear to what extent cellular processes (inferred from protein abundance profiles) are affected by growth temperature and which, in particular, constrain growth at upper and lower temperature limits. To evaluate this, 8-plex iTRAQ proteomics was performed on the Antarctic microorganism, Methanococcoides burtonii. Methanococcoides burtonii was chosen due to its importance as a model psychrophilic (cold-adapted) member of the Archaea, and the fact that proteomic methods, including subcellular fractionation procedures, have been well developed. Differential abundance patterns were obtained for cells grown at seven different growth temperatures (−2°C, 1°C, 4°C, 10°C, 16°C, 23°C, 28°C) and a principal component analysis (PCA) was performed to identify trends in protein abundances. The multiplex analysis enabled three largely distinct physiological states to be described: cold stress (−2°C), cold adaptation (1°C, 4°C, 10°C and 16°C), and heat stress (23°C and 28°C). A particular feature of the thermal extremes was the synthesis of heat- and cold-specific stress proteins, reflecting the important, yet distinct ways in which temperature-induced stress manifests in the cell. This is the first quantitative proteomic investigation to simultaneously assess the response of a microorganism to numerous growth temperatures, including the upper and lower growth temperatures limits, and has revealed a new level of understanding about cellular adaptive responses.
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