Molecular counting by photobleaching in protein complexes with many subunits: best practices and application to the cellulose synthesis complex

Abstract

The constituents of large, multisubunit protein complexes dictate their functions in cells, but determining their precise molecular makeup in vivo is challenging. One example of such a complex is the cellulose synthesis complex (CSC), which in plants synthesizes cellulose, the most abundant biopolymer on Earth. In growing plant cells, CSCs exist in the plasma membrane as six-lobed rosettes that contain at least three different cellulose synthase (CESA) isoforms, but the number and stoichiometry of CESAs in each CSC are unknown. To begin to address this question, we performed quantitative photobleaching of GFP-tagged AtCESA3-containing particles in living Arabidopsis thaliana cells using variable-angle epifluorescence microscopy and developed a set of information-based step detection procedures to estimate the number of GFP molecules in each particle. The step detection algorithms account for changes in signal variance due to changing numbers of fluorophores, and the subsequent analysis avoids common problems associated with fitting multiple Gaussian functions to binned histogram data. The analysis indicates that at least 10 GFP-AtCESA3 molecules can exist in each particle. These procedures can be applied to photobleaching data for any protein complex with large numbers of fluorescently tagged subunits, providing a new analytical tool with which to probe complex composition and stoichiometry.

DOI: 10.1091/mbc.E14-06-1146

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@inproceedings{Chen2014MolecularCB, title={Molecular counting by photobleaching in protein complexes with many subunits: best practices and application to the cellulose synthesis complex}, author={Yalei Chen and Nathan C. Deffenbaugh and Charles T Anderson and William O. Hancock}, booktitle={Molecular biology of the cell}, year={2014} }