Recent technological advances have expanded the annotated protein coding content of mammalian genomes, as hundreds of previously unidentified, short open reading frame (ORF)-encoded peptides (SEPs) have now been found to be translated. Although several studies have identified important physiological roles for this emerging protein class, a general method to define their interactomes is lacking. Here, we demonstrate that genetic incorporation of the photo-crosslinking noncanonical amino acid AbK into SEP transgenes allows for the facile identification of SEP cellular interaction partners using affinity-based methods. From a survey of seven SEPs, we report the discovery of short ORF-encoded histone binding protein (SEHBP), a conserved microprotein that interacts with chromatin-associated proteins, localizes to discrete genomic loci, and induces a robust transcriptional program when overexpressed in human cells. This work affords a straightforward method to help define the physiological roles of SEPs and demonstrates its utility by identifying SEHBP as a short ORF-encoded transcription factor.
Keywords: expanded genetic code; photo-crosslinking; short open reading frame-encoded peptide; transcriptional regulation.