Mycoplasma contamination of leukemic cell lines alters protein expression determined by reverse phase protein arrays

Fieke W. Hoff, Chenyue W. Hu, Amina A. Qutub, Yihua Qiu, Elizabeth Graver, Giang Hoang, Manasi Chauhan, Eveline S.J.M. de Bont, Steven M. Kornblau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Mycoplasma contamination is a major problem in cell culturing, potentially altering the results of cell line-based experiments in largely uncharacterized ways. To define the consequences of mycoplasma infection at the level of protein expression we utilized the reverse phase protein array technology to analyze the expression of 235 proteins in mycoplasma infected, uninfected post treatment, and never-infected leukemic cell lines. Overall, protein profiles of cultured cells remained relatively stable after mycoplasma infection. However, paired comparisons for individual proteins identified that 18.7% of the proteins significantly changed between the infected and the never-infected cell line samples, and that 14.0% of the proteins significantly altered between the infected and the post treatment samples. Six percent of the proteins were affected in the post treatment samples compared to the never-infected samples, and 7.2% compared to treated cells that had never had mycoplasma infection before. Proteins that were significantly altered in the infected cells were enriched for apoptotic signaling processes and auto-phosphorylation, suggesting an increased cellular stress and a decreased growth rate. In conclusion, this study shows that mycoplasma infection of leukemic cell lines alters the proteins expression levels, potentially confounding experimental results. This reinforces the need for regular testing of mycoplasma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1529-1535
Number of pages7
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell lines
  • Mycoplasma
  • Proteomics
  • RPPA


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