University of Illinois at Chicago
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Physical Features of Intracellular Proteins that Moonlight on the Cell Surface

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posted on 2016-01-28, 00:00 authored by V. Amblee, CJ Jeffery
Moonlighting proteins comprise a subset of multifunctional proteins that perform two or more biochemical functions that are not due to gene fusions, multiple splice variants, proteolytic fragments, or promiscuous enzyme activities. The project described herein focuses on a sub-set of moonlighting proteins that have a canonical biochemical function inside the cell and perform a second biochemical function on the cell surface in at least one species. The goal of this project is to consider the biophysical features of these moonlighting proteins to determine whether they have shared characteristics or defining features that might suggest why these particular proteins were adopted for a second function on the cell surface, or if these proteins resemble typical intracellular proteins. The latter might suggest that many other normally intracellular proteins found on the cell surface might also be moonlighting in this fashion. We have identified 30 types of proteins that have different functions inside the cell and on the cell surface. Some of these proteins are found to moonlight on the surface of multiple species, sometimes with different extracellular functions in different species, so there are a total of 98 proteins in the study set. Although a variety of intracellular proteins (enzymes, chaperones, etc.) are observed to be re-used on the cell surface, for the most part, these proteins were found to have physical characteristics typical of intracellular proteins. Many other intracellular proteins have also been found on the surface of bacterial pathogens and other organisms in proteomics experiments. It is quite possible that many of those proteins also have a moonlighting function on the cell surface. The increasing number and variety of known moonlighting proteins suggest that there may be more moonlighting proteins than previously thought, and moonlighting might be a common feature of many more proteins.


The research reported herein was supported by a Sarah Madonna Kabbes Award for Undergraduate Research to V.A. and a University of Illinois Honors College Research Grant (


Publisher Statement

Copyright: © 2015 Amblee, Jeffery. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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