The field of systems biology has been rapidly developing in the past decade. However, the data produced by "omits" approaches is lagging behind the requirements of this field, especially when it comes to absolute abundances of membrane proteins. In the present study, a novel approach for large-scale absolute quantification of this challenging subset of proteins has been established and evaluated using osmotic stress management in the Gram-positive model bacterium Bacillus subtilis as proof-of-principle precedent. Selected membrane proteins were labeled using a SNAP-tag, which allowed us to visually inspect the enrichment of the membrane fraction by immunoassays. Absolute membrane protein concentrations were determined via shotgun proteomics by spiking crude membrane extracts of chromosomally SNAP-tagged and wild-type B. subtilis strains with protein standards of known concentration. Shotgun data was subsequently calibrated by targeted mass Snotgun-his Targeted MY spectrometry using SNAP as an anchor protein, and an enrichment factor was calculated in order to obtain membrane protein copy numbers per square micrometer. The presented approach enabled the accurate determination of physiological changes resulting from imposed hyperosmotic stress, thereby offering a clear visualization of alterations in membrane protein arrangements and shedding light on putative membrane complexes. This straightforward and cost-effective methodology for quantitative proteome studies can be implemented by any research group with mass spectrometry expertise. Importantly, it can be applied to the full spectrum of physiologically relevant conditions, ranging from environmental stresses to the biotechnological production of small molecules and proteins, a field heavily relying on B. subtilis secretion capabilities.
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