U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Role of Post-Translational Protein Modification in Community-Scale Processes
Published: July 25, 2014
Posted: September 22, 2014

Although biological processes are often modulated by the direct regulation of gene expression, post-translational modifications (PTM) of expressed proteins frequently play an equally important regulatory role. PTM occurs when protein function is altered by the addition of a phosphate, acetate, or other small molecule in response to a sensed environmental cue. These alterations create rippling signal cascades, often leading to pervasive changes in cellular metabolism and functional properties. PTM-based regulation has been extensively studied in individual organisms, but the role of this regulatory mechanism at the scale of complex communities remains poorly understood. In a new study, a collaborative team of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory developed a novel technique that allows PTM analysis in proteins collected from an intact microbial community (i.e., the metaproteome) using high-resolution mass spectrometry coupled to high-performance computing. The investigators examined PTM in a model biofilm community found in a highly acidic environment and were able to link this regulatory mechanism to several community-scale phenotypes that could not be explained by observed changes in gene expression. Community-level attributes associated with PTM in this study included alterations in community structure, nutrient acquisition strategies, and resistance to viral invasion. This finding represents a considerable advance in the application of systems biology approaches to community-level analysis. The team now is working to scale up this technique to enable investigations of more complex communities and environments.
Reference: Li, Z., Y. Wang, Q. Yao, N. B. Justice, T.-H. Ahn, D. Xu, R. L. Hettich, J. F. Banfield, and C. Pan. 2014. “Diverse and Divergent Protein Post Translational Modifications in Two Growth Stages of a Natural Microbial Community,” Nature Communications 5, 4405. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms5405. (Reference link)

Contact: Joseph Graber, SC-23.2, (301) 903-1239
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Genomic Analysis and Systems Biology
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Research Area: Computational Biology, Bioinformatics, Modeling

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER


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