An improved toolbox to unravel the plant cellular machinery by tandem affinity purification of Arabidopsis protein complexes

Nat Protoc. 2015 Jan;10(1):169-87. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2014.199. Epub 2014 Dec 18.


Tandem affinity purification coupled to mass spectrometry (TAP-MS) is one of the most advanced methods to characterize protein complexes in plants, giving a comprehensive view on the protein-protein interactions (PPIs) of a certain protein of interest (bait). The bait protein is fused to a double affinity tag, which consists of a protein G tag and a streptavidin-binding peptide separated by a very specific protease cleavage site, allowing highly specific protein complex isolation under near-physiological conditions. Implementation of this optimized TAP tag, combined with ultrasensitive MS, means that these experiments can be performed on small amounts (25 mg of total protein) of protein extracts from Arabidopsis cell suspension cultures. It is also possible to use this approach to isolate low abundant protein complexes from Arabidopsis seedlings, thus opening perspectives for the exploration of protein complexes in a plant developmental context. Next to protocols for efficient biomass generation of seedlings (∼7.5 months), we provide detailed protocols for TAP (1 d), and for sample preparation and liquid chromatography-tandem MS (LC-MS/MS; ∼5 d), either from Arabidopsis seedlings or from cell cultures. For the identification of specific co-purifying proteins, we use an extended protein database and filter against a list of nonspecific proteins on the basis of the occurrence of a co-purified protein among 543 TAP experiments. The value of the provided protocols is illustrated through numerous applications described in recent literature.

MeSH terms

  • Affinity Labels
  • Arabidopsis / chemistry*
  • Arabidopsis / cytology*
  • Arabidopsis / growth & development
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Multiprotein Complexes / analysis
  • Multiprotein Complexes / isolation & purification*
  • Protein Interaction Maps
  • Seedlings / cytology
  • Seedlings / metabolism
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods


  • Affinity Labels
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Multiprotein Complexes