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Volume 395, Issue 12 (Dec 2014)


Small membrane proteins – elucidating the function of the needle in the haystack

Grant Kemp
  • Center for Biomembrane Research, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Florian Cymer
  • Corresponding author
  • Center for Biomembrane Research, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2014-08-12 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/hsz-2014-0213


Membrane proteins are important mediators between the cell and its environment or between different compartments within a cell. However, much less is known about the structure and function of membrane proteins compared to water-soluble proteins. Moreover, until recently a subset of membrane proteins, those shorter than 100 amino acids, have almost completely evaded detection as a result of technical difficulties. These small membrane proteins (SMPs) have been underrepresented in most genomic and proteomic screens of both pro- and eukaryotic cells and, hence, we know much less about their functions in both. Currently, through a combination of bioinformatics, ribosome profiling, and more sensitive proteomics, large numbers of SMPs are being identified and characterized. Herein we describe recent advances in identifying SMPs from genomic and proteomic datasets and describe examples where SMPs have been successfully characterized biochemically. Finally we give an overview of identified functions of SMPs and speculate on the possible roles SMPs play in the cell.

Keywords: AcrZ; KdpF; phospholamban; sORF; transmembrane


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About the article

Grant Kemp

Grant Kemp studied Biochemistry at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, going on to complete a PhD under the supervision of Drs. Howard Young and Larry Fliegel. His thesis focused on understanding the structure and function of eukaryotic sodium proton exchangers with a focus on protein expression and reconstitution techniques. After successfully defending his PhD in the fall of 2013, he joined the laboratory of Prof. Gunnar von Heijne to study the co-translational folding of membrane proteins.

Florian Cymer

Florian Cymer studied biology at the University of Frankfurt and Ulm. He then joined the group of Prof. Dr. Dirk Schneider as a PhD student, and investigated the in vitro and in vivo oligomerization of membrane proteins. He received his PhD in 2010 from the University of Freiburg and joined the group of Prof. Dr. Gunnar von Heijne at the University of Stockholm as a Postdoc. He currently focuses on the membrane insertion and folding of bacterial and mammalian polytopic membrane proteins.

Corresponding author: Florian Cymer, Center for Biomembrane Research, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden, e-mail:

Received: 2014-06-16

Accepted: 2014-08-06

Published Online: 2014-08-12

Published in Print: 2014-12-01

Citation Information: Biological Chemistry, ISSN (Online) 1437-4315, ISSN (Print) 1431-6730, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/hsz-2014-0213.

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Sarah M. Hücker, Zachary Ardern, Tatyana Goldberg, Andrea Schafferhans, Michael Bernhofer, Gisle Vestergaard, Chase W. Nelson, Michael Schloter, Burkhard Rost, Siegfried Scherer, Klaus Neuhaus, and Christos A. Ouzounis
PLOS ONE, 2017, Volume 12, Number 9, Page e0184119
Susanna Seppälä, Kevin V. Solomon, Sean P. Gilmore, John K. Henske, and Michelle A. O’Malley
Microbial Cell Factories, 2016, Volume 15, Number 1
Ji-Shen Zheng, Yao He, Chao Zuo, Xiao-Ying Cai, Shan Tang, Zhipeng A. Wang, Long-Hua Zhang, Chang-Lin Tian, and Lei Liu
Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2016, Volume 138, Number 10, Page 3553
Klaus Neuhaus, Richard Landstorfer, Lea Fellner, Svenja Simon, Andrea Schafferhans, Tatyana Goldberg, Harald Marx, Olga N. Ozoline, Burkhard Rost, Bernhard Kuster, Daniel A. Keim, and Siegfried Scherer
BMC Genomics, 2016, Volume 17, Number 1
Jun Liu and Sharon Rozovsky
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, 2015, Volume 23, Number 10, Page 795
Michael Stangl and Dirk Schneider
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Biomembranes, 2015, Volume 1848, Number 9, Page 1886

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