A Pan-plant Protein Complex Map Reveals Deep Conservation and Novel Assemblies

Claire D McWhite et al.

Cell. 2020 Apr 16;181(2):460-474.e14. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.02.049. Epub 2020 Mar 18.


Plants are foundational for global ecological and economic systems, but most plant proteins remain uncharacterized. Protein interaction networks often suggest protein functions and open new avenues to characterize genes and proteins. We therefore systematically determined protein complexes from 13 plant species of scientific and agricultural importance, greatly expanding the known repertoire of stable protein complexes in plants. By using co-fractionation mass spectrometry, we recovered known complexes, confirmed complexes predicted to occur in plants, and identified previously unknown interactions conserved over 1.1 billion years of green plant evolution. Several novel complexes are involved in vernalization and pathogen defense, traits critical for agriculture. We also observed plant analogs of animal complexes with distinct molecular assemblies, including a megadalton-scale tRNA multi-synthetase complex. The resulting map offers a cross-species view of conserved, stable protein assemblies shared across plant cells and provides a mechanistic, biochemical framework for interpreting plant genetics and mutant phenotypes.

Keywords: co-fractionation mass spectrometry (CF-MS); comparative proteomics; cross-linking mass spectrometry (CL-MS); evolution; interaction-to-phenotype; pathogen defense; plants; protein complexes; protein interactions.