A quantitative assessment of the membrane-integral sub-proteome of a bacterial magnetic organelle

Oliver Raschdorf, Florian Bonn, Natalie Zeytuni, Raz Zarivach, Dörte Becher, Dirk Schüler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Magnetotactic bacteria produce chains of complex membrane-bound organelles that direct the biomineralization of magnetic nanoparticles and serve for magnetic field navigation. These magnetosome compartments have recently emerged as a model for studying the subcellular organization of prokaryotic organelles. Previous studies indicated the presence of specific proteins with various functions in magnetosome biosynthesis. However, the exact composition and stoichiometry of the magnetosome subproteome have remained unknown. In order to quantify and unambiguously identify all proteins specifically targeted to the magnetosome membrane of the Alphaproteobacterium Magnetospirillum gryphiswaldense, we analyzed the protein composition of several cellular fractions by semi-quantitative mass spectrometry. We found that nearly all genuine magnetosome membrane-integral proteins belong to a well-defined set of previously identified proteins encoded by gene clusters within a genomic island, indicating a highly controlled protein composition. Magnetosome proteins were present in different quantities with up to 120 copies per particle as estimated by correlating our results with available quantitative Western blot data. This high abundance suggests an unusually crowded protein composition of the membrane and a tight packing with transmembrane domains of integral proteins. Our findings will help to further define the structure of the organelle and contribute to the elucidation of magnetosome biogenesis. Biological Significance Magnetosomes are one of the most complex bacterial organelles and consist of membrane-bounded crystals of magnetic minerals. The exact composition and stoichiometry of the associated membrane integral proteins are of major interest for a deeper understanding of prokaryotic organelle assembly; however, previous proteomic studies failed to reveal meaningful estimations due to the lack of precise and quantitative data, and the inherently high degree of accumulated protein contaminants in purified magnetosomes. Using a highly sensitive mass spectrometer, we acquired proteomic data from several cellular fractions of a magnetosome producing magnetotactic bacterium and developed a comparative algorithm to identify all genuine magnetosome membrane-integral proteins and to discriminate them from contaminants. Furthermore, by combining our data with previously published quantitative Western blot data, we were able to model the protein copy number and density within the magnetosome membrane. Our results suggest that the magnetosome membrane is specifically associated with a small subset of integral proteins that are tightly packed within the lipid layer. Our study provides by far the most comprehensive estimation of magnetosomal protein composition and stoichiometry and will help to elucidate the complex process of magnetosome biogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-99
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Proteomics
StatePublished - 10 Feb 2018


  • Bacterial organelles
  • Magnetosomes
  • Membrane integral sub-proteome
  • Protein quantification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry


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