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Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 1995 Nov;27(11):1133-44.

Palmitoylation of brain capillary proteins.

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  • 1Département de Chimie-Biochimie, Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada.


Palmitoylation is a reversible posttranslational modification which is involved in the regulation of several membrane proteins such as beta 2-adrenergic receptor, p21ras and trimeric G-protein alpha-subunits. This covalent modification could be involved in the regulation of the numerous membrane proteins present in the blood-brain barrier capillaries. The palmitoylation activity present in brain capillaries was characterized using [3H]palmitate labeling followed by chloroform methanol precipitation. Palmitate solubilizing agents such as detergents and bovine serum albumin (BSA), were used for optimizing activity. Some palmitoylated substrates were identified using [3H]palmitate labeling followed by immunoprecipitation with specific antibodies. Two optimal palmitate solubilization conditions were found, one involves cell permeabilization (Triton X-100) and the other represents a more physiological condition where membrane integrity is conserved (BSA). Sensitivity to the cysteine modifier N-ethylmaleimide and to hydrolysis, using hydroxylamine or alkaline methanolysis, indicated that palmitic acid was bound to the proteins by a thioester bond. Maximal palmitate incorporation was reached after 30 or 60 min of incubation in the presence of Triton or BSA, respectively. Depalmitoylation was observed in the presence of BSA, but not with detergents. The palmitoylation reaction was optimal at pH 8 or 9 in the presence of Triton or BSA, respectively, but palmitoylated substrates were detectable over a wide range of pH values. In the presence of Triton X-100, the addition of ATP, CoA and Mg2+ to the incubation medium increased palmitoylation by up to 80-fold. Two palmitoylated substrates were identified, a 42 kDa G-protein alpha subunit and p21ras. The study shows that the utilization of palmitate solubilizing agents is essential to measure in vitro palmitoylation in brain capillaries. Several palmitoylated proteins are present in the blood-brain barrier including five major substrates of 12, 21, 35, 42 and 55 kDa. It is suggested that palmitoylation could play a crucial role in the regulation of brain capillary function, since the two substrates identified in this study are known to be involved in signal transduction, vesicular transport and cell differentiation.

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