Bacterial proteins of ≤50 amino acids, denoted small proteins or microproteins, have been traditionally understudied and overlooked, as standard computational, biochemical, and genetic approaches often do not detect proteins of this size. However, with the realization that small proteins are stably expressed and have important cellular roles, there has been increased identification of small proteins in bacteria and eukaryotes. Gradually, the functions of a few of these small proteins are being elucidated. Many interact with larger protein products to modulate their subcellular localization, stabilities, or activities. Here, we provide an overview of these diverse functions in bacteria, highlighting generalities among bacterial small proteins and similarly sized proteins in eukaryotic organisms and discussing questions for future research.


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