Proteome Half-Life Dynamics in Living Human Cells

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Science  13 Jan 2011:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1199784


Cells remove proteins by two processes: degradation and dilution due to cell growth. The balance between these basic processes is poorly understood. We addressed this by developing an accurate and noninvasive method for measuring protein half-lives, called “bleach-chase,” that is applicable to fluorescently tagged proteins. Assaying 100 proteins in living human cancer cells showed half-lives that ranged between 45 min and 22.5 hours. A variety of stresses that stop cell division showed the same general effect: Long-lived proteins became longer-lived, whereas short-lived proteins remained largely unaffected. This effect is due to the relative strengths of degradation and dilution and suggests a mechanism for differential killing of rapidly growing cells by growth-arresting drugs. This approach opens a way to understand proteome half-life dynamics in living cells.