Open Access Research article

The relationships between the isoelectric point and: length of proteins, taxonomy and ecology of organisms

Joanna Kiraga1, Pawel Mackiewicz1, Dorota Mackiewicz1, Maria Kowalczuk1, Przemysław Biecek1, Natalia Polak1, Kamila Smolarczyk1, Miroslaw R Dudek2 and Stanislaw Cebrat1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Genomics, University of Wrocław, ul. Przybyszewskiego 63/77, 51-148 Wrocław, Poland

2 Institute of Physics, University of Zielona Góra, ul. Szafrana 4A, 65-516 Zielona Góra, Poland

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BMC Genomics 2007, 8:163  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-8-163

Published: 12 June 2007



The distribution of isoelectric point (pI) of proteins in a proteome is universal for all organisms. It is bimodal dividing the proteome into two sets of acidic and basic proteins. Different species however have different abundance of acidic and basic proteins that may be correlated with taxonomy, subcellular localization, ecological niche of organisms and proteome size.


We have analysed 1784 proteomes encoded by chromosomes of Archaea, Bacteria, Eukaryota, and also mitochondria, plastids, prokaryotic plasmids, phages and viruses. We have found significant correlation in more than 95% of proteomes between the protein length and pI in proteomes – positive for acidic proteins and negative for the basic ones. Plastids, viruses and plasmids encode more basic proteomes while chromosomes of Archaea, Bacteria, Eukaryota, mitochondria and phages more acidic ones. Mitochondrial proteomes of Viridiplantae, Protista and Fungi are more basic than Metazoa. It results from the presence of basic proteins in the former proteomes and their absence from the latter ones and is related with reduction of metazoan genomes. Significant correlation was found between the pI bias of proteomes encoded by prokaryotic chromosomes and proteomes encoded by plasmids but there is no correlation between eukaryotic nuclear-coded proteomes and proteomes encoded by organelles. Detailed analyses of prokaryotic proteomes showed significant relationships between pI distribution and habitat, relation to the host cell and salinity of the environment, but no significant correlation with oxygen and temperature requirements. The salinity is positively correlated with acidicity of proteomes. Host-associated organisms and especially intracellular species have more basic proteomes than free-living ones. The higher rate of mutations accumulation in the intracellular parasites and endosymbionts is responsible for the basicity of their tiny proteomes that explains the observed positive correlation between the decrease of genome size and the increase of basicity of proteomes. The results indicate that even conserved proteins subjected to strong selectional constraints follow the global trend in the pI distribution.


The distribution of pI of proteins in proteomes shows clear relationships with length of proteins, subcellular localization, taxonomy and ecology of organisms. The distribution is also strongly affected by mutational pressure especially in intracellular organisms.