Background: Membrane proteins still remain elusive in proteomic studies. This is in part due to the distribution of the amino acids lysine and arginine, which are less frequent in integral membrane proteins and almost absent in transmembrane helices. As these amino acids are cleavage targets for the commonly used protease trypsin, alternative cleavage conditions, which should improve membrane protein analysis, were tested by in silico digestion for the three organisms Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Halobacterium sp. NRC-1, and Corynebacterium glutamicum as hallmarks for eukaryotes, archea and eubacteria.
Results: For the membrane proteomes from all three analyzed organisms, we identified cleavage conditions that achieve better sequence and proteome coverage than trypsin. Greater improvement was obtained for bacteria than for yeast, which was attributed to differences in protein size and GRAVY. It was demonstrated for bacteriorhodopsin that the in silico predictions agree well with the experimental observations.
Conclusion: For all three examined organisms, it was found that a combination of chymotrypsin and staphylococcal peptidase I gave significantly better results than trypsin. As some of the improved cleavage conditions are not more elaborate than trypsin digestion and have been proven useful in practice, we suppose that the cleavage at both hydrophilic and hydrophobic amino acids should facilitate in general the analysis of membrane proteins for all organisms.