Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Life Sciences

Major Professor

Yisong Wang

Committee Members

Yie Liu, W. Hayes McDonald, Brynn Voy, Sundar Venkatachalam


Protein-protein interactions (PPI) play a vital role in almost every cellular process. Although many methodologies exist to probe PPIs, one of the most successful and widely employed is tandem affinity purification coupled with liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Although best demonstrated in yeast, TAP has encountered significant hurdles in its application to mammalian systems, especially the observed low yield of bait protein and its interacting partners after two consecutive purifications.

To address these issues, a novel dual-tag affinity purification (DAP) system was developed that not only enhances bait protein recovery, but also allows for rapid evaluation of dual-tag compatibility with a protein of interest based on its known subcellular localization. In addition, several tags of varying composition were constructed to allow for maximal bait protein compatibility. With this system, mammalian bait protein yield was improved by more than 200% relative to previously published results.

Capitalizing on this success, DAP was applied to human telomere binding proteins TRF1, TRF2, and POT1 to garner a greater understanding of the protein networks that involve the telomere. Expectedly, all the members of the telosome complex were identified at frequencies that lend evidence towards the currently accepted architecture. Also identified were several other novel proteins and subcomplexes that may enhance our understanding of telomere maintenance / length regulation. For instance, members of the classical nuclear import system co-purified with both TRF1 and TRF2. Although previously documented for TRF1, TRF2’s association with importin alpha (KPNA2) and beta (KPNB1) has not been demonstrated till now. Interestingly, further study revealed that KPNA2 acts as a negative regulator of TRF2 nuclear localization.

This observation could have far-reaching implications as TRF2 is thought to be also heavily involved in the DNA damage response. Along these lines, a more indepth MS analysis revealed several putative phosphorylation sites along TRF2’s sequence. One site, pS380, seems to be phosphorylated by the DNA-damage kinase ATM and plays a role in a cell’s proliferative capacity, possibly affecting telomere length regulation. The studies contained here within demonstrate the efficacy of DAP-LC-MS/MS to provide useful leads with regards to the study of PPIs.

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