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J Cell Sci. 2004 Feb 1;117(Pt 4):521-6.

Model organisms lead the way to protein palmitoyltransferases.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, MO 63110, USA.


The acylation of proteins with palmitate and related fatty acids has been known for over 30 years, but the molecular machinery that carries out palmitoylation has only recently emerged from studies in the model organisms Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Drosophila. Two classes of protein acyltransferases (PATs) have been proposed. In yeast, members of a family of integral membrane proteins harboring a cysteine-rich domain (CRD) containing a conserved DHHC (Asp-His-His-Cys) motif are PATs for cytoplasmic signaling molecules. The DHHC-CRD protein Erf2p, together with an associated subunit Erf4p, palmitoylates yeast Ras proteins, and Akr1p catalyzes the palmitoylation of the yeast casein kinase Yck2p. The existence of a second class of PATs that modify secreted signaling proteins has been suggested from work in Drosophila. Rasp is required in vivo for the production of functional Hedgehog and shares sequence identity with membrane-bound O-acyltransferases, which suggests that it catalyzes the palmitoylation of Hedgehog. With the identification of PATs in model genetic organisms, the field is now poised to uncover their mammalian counterparts and to understand the enzymology of protein palmitoylation.

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