Discovery of cell compartment specific protein-protein interactions using affinity purification combined with tandem mass spectrometry

J Proteome Res. 2013 Jan 4;12(1):272-81. doi: 10.1021/pr300778b. Epub 2012 Dec 4.


Affinity purification combined with tandem mass spectrometry (AP-MS/MS) is a well-established method used to discover interaction partners for a given protein of interest. Because most AP-MS/MS approaches are performed using the soluble fraction of whole cell extracts (WCE), information about the cellular compartments where the interactions occur is lost. More importantly, classical AP-MS/MS often fails to identify interactions that take place in the nonsoluble fraction of the cell, for example, on the chromatin or membranes; consequently, protein complexes that are less soluble are underrepresented. In this paper, we introduce a method called multiple cell compartment AP-MS/MS (MCC-AP-MS/MS), which identifies the interactions of a protein independently in three fractions of the cell: the cytoplasm, the nucleoplasm, and the chromatin. We show that this fractionation improves the sensitivity of the method when compared to the classical affinity purification procedure using soluble WCE while keeping a very high specificity. Using three proteins known to localize in various cell compartments as baits, the CDK9 subunit of transcription elongation factor P-TEFb, the RNA polymerase II (RNAP II)-associated protein 4 (RPAP4), and the largest subunit of RNAP II, POLR2A, we show that MCC-AP-MS/MS reproducibly yields fraction-specific interactions. Finally, we demonstrate that this improvement in sensitivity leads to the discovery of novel interactions of RNAP II carboxyl-terminal domain (CTD) interacting domain (CID) proteins with POLR2A.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Compartmentation* / genetics
  • Cell Compartmentation* / physiology
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Chromatography, Affinity / methods*
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases / genetics
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Positive Transcriptional Elongation Factor B / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Proteins* / chemistry
  • Proteins* / isolation & purification
  • Proteins* / metabolism
  • RNA Polymerase II / chemistry
  • RNA Polymerase II / metabolism
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Proteins
  • Positive Transcriptional Elongation Factor B
  • RNA Polymerase II
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases