Scientists take a giant step for people -- with plants!
- Via e!Science News, Friday, July 29, 2011 - 02:35 in Biology & Nature
Science usually progresses in small steps, but on rare occasions, a new combination of research expertise and cutting-edge technology produces a 'great leap forward.' An international team of scientists, whose senior investigators include Salk Institute plant biologist Joseph Ecker, report one such leap in the July 29, 2011 issue of Science. They describe their mapping and early analyses of thousands of protein-to-protein interactions within the cells of Arabidopsis thaliana -a variety of mustard plant that is to plant biology what the lab mouse is to human biology. "With this one study we managed to double the plant protein-interaction data that are available to scientists," says Ecker, a professor in the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory. "These data along with data from future 'interactome' mapping studies like this one should enable biologists to make agricultural plants more resistant to drought and diseases, more nutritious, and generally more useful to mankind."
The four-year project was funded by an $8 million National Science Foundation grant, and was headed by Marc Vidal, Pascal Braun, David Hill and colleagues at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston; and Ecker at the Salk Institute. "It was a natural collaboration," says Vidal, "because Joe and his colleagues at the Salk Institute had already sequenced the Arabidopsis genome and had cloned many of the protein-coding genes, whereas on our side at the Dana Farber Institute we had experience in making these protein interaction maps for other organisms such as yeast."
In the initial stages of the project, members of Ecker's lab led by research technician Mary Galli converted most of their accumulated library of Arabidopsis protein-coding gene clones into a form useful for protein-interaction tests. "For this project, over 10,000 'open reading frame' clones were converted and sequence verified in preparation for protein-interaction screening," says Galli.
Vidal, Braun, Hill and their colleagues systematically ran these open reading frames through a high quality protein-interaction screening process, based on a test known as the yeast two-hybrid screen. Out of more than forty million possible pair combinations, they found a total of 6,205 Arabidopsis protein- protein interactions, involving 2,774 individual proteins. The researchers confirmed the high quality of these data, for example by showing their overlap with protein interaction datafrom past studies.
The new map of 6,205 protein partnerings represents only about two percent of the full protein- protein "interactome" for Arabidopsis, since the screening test covered only a third of all Arabidopsis proteins, and wasn't sensitive enough to detect many weaker protein interactions. "There will be larger maps after this one," says Ecker