Estimating the number of protein molecules in a plant cell

protein and amino acid homeostasis during drought

authored by
Björn Heinemann, Patrick Künzler, Holger Eubel, Hans-Peter Braun, Tatjana M Hildebrandt

During drought stress, cellular proteostasis on the one hand and amino acid homeostasis on the other hand are severely challenged, because the decrease in photosynthesis induces massive proteolysis, leading to drastic changes in both the proteome and the free amino acid pool. Thus, we selected progressive drought stress in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) as a model to investigate on a quantitative level the balance between protein and free amino acid homeostasis. We analyzed the mass composition of the leaf proteome based on proteomics datasets, and estimated how many protein molecules are present in a plant cell and its subcellular compartments. In addition, we calculated stress-induced changes in the distribution of individual amino acids between the free and protein-bound pools. Under control conditions, an average Arabidopsis mesophyll cell contains about 25 billion protein molecules, of which 80% are localized in chloroplasts. Severe water deficiency leads to degradation of more than 40% of the leaf protein mass, and thus causes a drastic shift in distribution toward the free amino acid pool. Stress-induced proteolysis of just half of the 340 million RubisCO hexadecamers present in the chloroplasts of a single mesophyll cell doubles the cellular content of free amino acids. A major fraction of the amino acids released from proteins is channeled into synthesis of proline, which is a compatible osmolyte. Complete oxidation of the remaining fraction as an alternative respiratory substrate can fully compensate for the lack of photosynthesis-derived carbohydrates for several hours.

Section Plant Molecular Biology and Plant Proteomics
Plant physiology
No. of pages
Publication date
Publication status
Peer reviewed
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Genetics, Physiology, Plant Science
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