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PLoS One. 2010 Mar 3;5(3):e9502. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009502.

Proteomic analysis of tardigrades: towards a better understanding of molecular mechanisms by anhydrobiotic organisms.

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Functional Proteome Analysis, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany.



Tardigrades are small, multicellular invertebrates which are able to survive times of unfavourable environmental conditions using their well-known capability to undergo cryptobiosis at any stage of their life cycle. Milnesium tardigradum has become a powerful model system for the analysis of cryptobiosis. While some genetic information is already available for Milnesium tardigradum the proteome is still to be discovered.


Here we present to the best of our knowledge the first comprehensive study of Milnesium tardigradum on the protein level. To establish a proteome reference map we developed optimized protocols for protein extraction from tardigrades in the active state and for separation of proteins by high resolution two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. Since only limited sequence information of M. tardigradum on the genome and gene expression level is available to date in public databases we initiated in parallel a tardigrade EST sequencing project to allow for protein identification by electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry. 271 out of 606 analyzed protein spots could be identified by searching against the publicly available NCBInr database as well as our newly established tardigrade protein database corresponding to 144 unique proteins. Another 150 spots could be identified in the tardigrade clustered EST database corresponding to 36 unique contigs and ESTs. Proteins with annotated function were further categorized in more detail by their molecular function, biological process and cellular component. For the proteins of unknown function more information could be obtained by performing a protein domain annotation analysis. Our results include proteins like protein member of different heat shock protein families and LEA group 3, which might play important roles in surviving extreme conditions.


The proteome reference map of Milnesium tardigradum provides the basis for further studies in order to identify and characterize the biochemical mechanisms of tolerance to extreme desiccation. The optimized proteomics workflow will enable application of sensitive quantification techniques to detect differences in protein expression, which are characteristic of the active and anhydrobiotic states of tardigrades.

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