Integral membrane proteins of the chloroplast envelope: Identification and subcellular localization of new transporters
A two-membrane system, or envelope, surrounds plastids. Because of the integration of chloroplast metabolism within the plant cell, the envelope is the site of many specific transport activities. However, only a few proteins involved in the processes of transport across the chloroplast envelope have been identified already at the molecular level. To discover new envelope transporters, we developed a subcellular proteomic approach, which is aimed to identify the most hydrophobic envelope proteins. This strategy combined the use of highly purified and characterized membrane fractions, extraction of the hydrophobic proteins with organic solvents, SDS/PAGE separation, and tandem mass spectrometry analysis. To process the large amount of MS/MS data, a blast-based program was developed for searching in protein, expressed sequence tag, and genomic plant databases. Among the 54 identified proteins, 27 were new envelope proteins, with most of them bearing multiple α-helical transmembrane regions and being very likely envelope transporters. The present proteomic study also allowed us to identify common features among the known and newly identified putative envelope inner membrane transporters. These features were used to mine the complete Arabidopsis genome and allowed us to establish a virtual plastid envelope integral protein database. Altogether, both proteomic and in silico approaches identified more than 50 candidates for the as yet previously uncharacterized plastid envelope transporters. The predictable function of some of these proteins opens up areas of investigation that may lead to a better understanding of the chloroplast metabolism. The present subcellular proteomic approach is amenable to the analysis of the hydrophobic core of other intracellular membrane systems.