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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Mar 17;106(11):4201-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0811922106. Epub 2009 Feb 27.

Bimodal protein solubility distribution revealed by an aggregation analysis of the entire ensemble of Escherichia coli proteins.

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  • 1Department of Medical Genome Sciences, Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, University of Tokyo, Kashiwa, Chiba 277-8562, Japan.


Protein folding often competes with intermolecular aggregation, which in most cases irreversibly impairs protein function, as exemplified by the formation of inclusion bodies. Although it has been empirically determined that some proteins tend to aggregate, the relationship between the protein aggregation propensities and the primary sequences remains poorly understood. Here, we individually synthesized the entire ensemble of Escherichia coli proteins by using an in vitro reconstituted translation system and analyzed the aggregation propensities. Because the reconstituted translation system is chaperone-free, we could evaluate the inherent aggregation propensities of thousands of proteins in a translation-coupled manner. A histogram of the solubilities, based on data from 3,173 translated proteins, revealed a clear bimodal distribution, indicating that the aggregation propensities are not evenly distributed across a continuum. Instead, the proteins can be categorized into 2 groups, soluble and aggregation-prone proteins. The aggregation propensity is most prominently correlated with the structural classification of proteins, implying that the prediction of aggregation propensity requires structural information about the protein.

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