Assessing the impact of protein extraction methods for human gut metaproteomics

J Proteomics. 2018 May 30:180:120-127. doi: 10.1016/j.jprot.2017.07.001. Epub 2017 Jul 10.


Metaproteomics is a promising methodology for the functional characterizations of the gut microbiome. However, the performance of metaproteomic analysis is affected by protein extraction protocols in terms of the amount of protein recovered and the relative abundance of different bacteria observed in microbiome. Currently, there is a lack of consistency on protein extraction methods in published metaproteomics studies. Here we evaluated the effects of different protein extraction methods on human fecal metaproteome characterizations. We found that sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS)-based lysis buffer obtained higher protein yields and peptide/protein group identifications compared to urea and the non-ionic detergent-based B-Per buffer. The addition of bead beating to any of the extraction buffers increased both protein yields and protein identifications. As well, bead beating led to a significant increase of the relative abundances of Firmicutes and Actinobacteria. We also demonstrated that ultrasonication, another commonly used mechanical disruption approach, performed even better than bead beating for gut microbial protein extractions. Importantly, proteins of the basic metabolic pathways showed significantly higher relative abundances when using ultrasonication. Overall, these results demonstrate that protein extraction protocols markedly impact the metaproteomic results and recommend a protein extraction protocol with both SDS and ultrasonication for metaproteomic studies.

Biological significance: The gut microbiome is emerging as an important factor influencing human health. Metaproteomics is promising for advancing the understanding of the functional roles of the microbiome in disease. However, metaproteomics suffers from a lack of consistent sample preparation procedures. In the present study, protein extraction protocols for fecal microbiome samples were evaluated for their effects on protein yields, peptide identifications, protein group identifications, taxonomic compositions and functional category distributions. While different protocols favor different microbial taxa and protein functions, our results suggest that a protein extraction protocol using sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) and ultrasonication provides the best performance for general shotgun metaproteomics studies.

Keywords: Bead beating; Gut microbiome; Metaproteomics; Protein extraction; Ultrasonication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Proteins / classification
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Feces / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Proteomics


  • Bacterial Proteins