Efficient Subfractionation of Gram-Negative Bacteria for Proteomics Studies

Proteomics studies of pathogenic bacteria are an important basis for biomarker discovery and for the development of antimicrobial drugs and vaccines. Especially where vaccines are concerned, it is of great interest to explore which bacterial factors are exposed on the bacterial cell surface and thus can be directly accessed by the immune system. One crucial step in proteomics studies of bacteria is an efficient subfractionation of their cellular compartments. We set out to compare and improve different protocols for the fractionation of proteins from Gram-negative bacteria into outer membrane, cytoplasmic membrane, periplasmic, and cytosolic fractions, with a focus on the outer membrane. Overall, five methods were compared, three methods for the fast isolation of outer membrane proteins and two methods for the fractionation of each cellular compartment, using <i>Escherichia coli</i> BL21 as a model organism. Proteins from the different fractions were prepared for further mass spectrometric analysis by SDS gel electrophoresis and consecutive in-gel tryptic digestion. Most published subfractionation protocols were not explicitly developed for proteomics applications. Thus, we evaluated not only the separation quality of the five methods but also the suitability of the samples for mass spectrometric analysis. We could obtain high quality mass spectrometry data from one-dimensional SDS-PAGE, which greatly reduces experimental time and sample amount compared to two-dimensional electrophoresis methods. We then applied the most specific fractionation technique to different Gram-negative pathogens, showing that it is efficient in separating the subcellular proteomes independent of the species and that it is capable of producing high-quality proteomics data in electrospray ionization mass spectrometry.