UBC Faculty Research and Publications

No Substrate Left behind—Mining of Shotgun Proteomics Datasets Rescues Evidence of Proteolysis by SARS-CoV-2 3CLpro Main Protease Bell, Peter A.; Overall, Christopher M.


Proteolytic processing is the most ubiquitous post-translational modification and regulator of protein function. To identify protease substrates, and hence the function of proteases, terminomics workflows have been developed to enrich and detect proteolytically generated protein termini from mass spectrometry data. The mining of shotgun proteomics datasets for such ‘neo’-termini, to increase the understanding of proteolytic processing, is an underutilized opportunity. However, to date, this approach has been hindered by the lack of software with sufficient speed to make searching for the relatively low numbers of protease-generated semi-tryptic peptides present in non-enriched samples viable. We reanalyzed published shotgun proteomics datasets for evidence of proteolytic processing in COVID-19 using the recently upgraded MSFragger/FragPipe software, which searches data with a speed that is an order of magnitude greater than many equivalent tools. The number of protein termini identified was higher than expected and constituted around half the number of termini detected by two different N-terminomics methods. We identified neo-N- and C-termini generated during SARS-CoV-2 infection that were indicative of proteolysis and were mediated by both viral and host proteases—a number of which had been recently validated by in vitro assays. Thus, re-analyzing existing shotgun proteomics data is a valuable adjunct for terminomics research that can be readily tapped (for example, in the next pandemic where data would be scarce) to increase the understanding of protease function and virus–host interactions, or other diverse biological processes.

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