Quantitative proteomic profiling of the Escherichia coli response to metallic copper surfaces

Renu Nandakumar, Christophe Espirito Santo, Nandakumar Madayiputhiya, Gregor Grass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Metallic copper surfaces have strong antimicrobial properties and kill bacteria, such as Escherichia coli, within minutes in a process called contact killing. These bacteria are exposed to acute copper stress under dry conditions which is different from chronic copper stress in growing liquid cultures. Currently, the physiological changes of E. coli during the acute contact killing process are largely unknown. Here, a label-free, quantitative proteomic approach was employed to identify the differential proteome profiles of E. coli cells after sub-lethal and lethal exposure to dry metallic copper. Of the 509 proteins identified, 110 proteins were differentially expressed after sub-lethal exposure, whereas 136 proteins had significant differences in their abundance levels after lethal exposure to copper compared to unexposed cells. A total of 210 proteins were identified only in copper-responsive proteomes. Copper surface stress coincided with increased abundance of proteins involved in secondary metabolite biosynthesis, transport and catabolism, including efflux proteins and multidrug resistance proteins. Proteins involved in translation, ribosomal structure and biogenesis functions were down-regulated after contact to metallic copper. The set of changes invoked by copper surface-exposure was diverse without a clear connection to copper ion stress but was different from that caused by exposure to stainless steel. Oxidative posttranslational modifications of proteins were observed in cells exposed to copper but also from stainless steel surfaces. However, proteins from copper stressed cells exhibited a higher degree of oxidative proline and threonine modifications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)429-444
Number of pages16
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Copper surfaces
  • Escherichia coli
  • Posttranslational modification
  • Quantitative proteomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Metals and Alloys


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