Subcellular proteomics

Nat Rev Methods Primers. 2021:1:32. doi: 10.1038/s43586-021-00029-y. Epub 2021 Apr 29.


The eukaryotic cell is compartmentalized into subcellular niches, including membrane-bound and membrane-less organelles. Proteins localize to these niches to fulfil their function, enabling discreet biological processes to occur in synchrony. Dynamic movement of proteins between niches is essential for cellular processes such as signalling, growth, proliferation, motility and programmed cell death, and mutations causing aberrant protein localization are associated with a wide range of diseases. Determining the location of proteins in different cell states and cell types and how proteins relocalize following perturbation is important for understanding their functions, related cellular processes and pathologies associated with their mislocalization. In this Primer, we cover the major spatial proteomics methods for determining the location, distribution and abundance of proteins within subcellular structures. These technologies include fluorescent imaging, protein proximity labelling, organelle purification and cell-wide biochemical fractionation. We describe their workflows, data outputs and applications in exploring different cell biological scenarios, and discuss their main limitations. Finally, we describe emerging technologies and identify areas that require technological innovation to allow better characterization of the spatial proteome.