Aqueous polymer two-phase systems: effective tools for plasma membrane proteomics

Proteomics. 2006 Oct;6(20):5409-17. doi: 10.1002/pmic.200600243.


Plasma membranes (PMs) are of particular importance for all living cells. They form a selectively permeable barrier to the environment. Many essential tasks of PMs are carried out by their proteinaceous components, including molecular transport, cell-cell interactions, and signal transduction. Due to the key role of these proteins for cellular function, they take center-stage in basic and applied research. A major problem towards in-depth identification and characterization of PM proteins by modern proteomic approaches is their low abundance and immense heterogeneity in different cells. Highly selective and efficient purification protocols are hence essential to any PM proteome analysis. An effective tool for preparative isolation of PMs is partitioning in aqueous polymer two-phase systems. In two-phase systems, membranes are separated according to differences in surface properties rather than size and density. Despite their rare application to the fractionation of animal tissues and cells, they represent an attractive alternative to conventional fractionation protocols. Here, we review the principles of partitioning using aqueous polymer two-phase systems and compare aqueous polymer two-phase systems with other methods currently used for the isolation of PMs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biochemistry / methods
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Polymers / chemistry*
  • Proteome / chemistry*
  • Proteomics / instrumentation*
  • Proteomics / methods*
  • Salts / pharmacology
  • Subcellular Fractions / metabolism
  • Water / chemistry*


  • Ligands
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Polymers
  • Proteome
  • Salts
  • Water