Detection of Known and Novel Small Proteins in Pseudomonas stutzeri Using a Combination of Bottom-Up and Digest-Free Proteomics and Proteogenomics

Meier-Credo, Jakob, et al. “Detection of Known and Novel Small Proteins in Pseudomonas stutzeri Using a Combination of Bottom-Up and Digest-Free Proteomics and Proteogenomics.” Analytical Chemistry 95.32 (2023): 11892-11900.


Small proteins of around 50 aa in length have been largely overlooked in genetic and biochemical assays due to the inherent challenges with detecting and characterizing them. Recent discoveries of their critical roles in many biological processes have led to an increased recognition of the importance of small proteins for basic research and as potential new drug targets. One example is CcoM, a 36 aa subunit of the cbb3-type oxidase that plays an essential role in adaptation to oxygen-limited conditions in Pseudomonas stutzeri (P. stutzeri), a model for the clinically relevant, opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. However, as no comprehensive data were available in P. stutzeri, we devised an integrated, generic approach to study small proteins more systematically. Using the first complete genome as basis, we conducted bottom-up proteomics analyses and established a digest-free, direct-sequencing proteomics approach to study cells grown under aerobic and oxygen-limiting conditions. Finally, we also applied a proteogenomics pipeline to identify missed protein-coding genes. Overall, we identified 2921 known and 29 novel proteins, many of which were differentially regulated. Among 176 small proteins 16 were novel. Direct sequencing, featuring a specialized precursor acquisition scheme, exhibited advantages in the detection of small proteins with higher (up to 100%) sequence coverage and more spectral counts, including sequences with high proline content. Three novel small proteins, uniquely identified by direct sequencing and not conserved beyond P. stutzeri, were predicted to form an operon with a conserved protein and may represent de novo genes. These data demonstrate the power of this combined approach to study small proteins in P. stutzeri and show its potential for other prokaryotes.