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Biochem J. 2004 Nov 15;384(Pt 1):129-37.

A novel member of the GCN5-related N-acetyltransferase superfamily from Caenorhabditis elegans preferentially catalyses the N-acetylation of thialysine [S-(2-aminoethyl)-L-cysteine].

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Department of Biochemistry, Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Bernhard-Nocht-Str. 74, D-20359 Hamburg, Germany.


The putative diamine N-acetyltransferase D2023.4 has been cloned from the model nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. The 483 bp open reading frame of the cDNA encodes a deduced polypeptide of 18.6 kDa. Accordingly, the recombinantly expressed His6-tagged protein forms an enzymically active homodimer with a molecular mass of approx. 44000 Da. The protein belongs to the GNAT (GCN5-related N-acetyltransferase) superfamily, and its amino acid sequence exhibits considerable similarity to mammalian spermidine/spermine-N1-acetyltransferases. However, neither the polyamines spermidine and spermine nor the diamines putrescine and cadaverine were efficiently acetylated by the protein. The smaller diamines diaminopropane and ethylenediamine, as well as L-lysine, represent better substrates, but, surprisingly, the enzyme most efficiently catalyses the N-acetylation of amino acids analogous with L-lysine. As determined by the k(cat)/K(m) values, the C. elegans N-acetyltransferase prefers thialysine [S-(2-aminoethyl)-L-cysteine], followed by O-(2-aminoethyl)-L-serine and S-(2-aminoethyl)-D,L-homocysteine. Reversed-phase HPLC and mass spectrometric analyses revealed that N-acetylation of L-lysine and L-thialysine occurs exclusively at the amino moiety of the side chain. Remarkably, heterologous expression of C. elegans N-acetyltransferase D2023.4 in Escherichia coli, which does not possess a homologous gene, results in a pronounced resistance against the anti-metabolite thialysine. Furthermore, C. elegans N-acetyltransferase D2023.4 exhibits the highest homology with a number of GNATs found in numerous genomes from bacteria to mammals that have not been biochemically characterized so far, suggesting a novel group of GNAT enzymes closely related to spermidine/spermine-N1-acetyltransferase, but with a distinct substrate specificity. Taken together, we propose to name the enzyme 'thialysine N(epsilon)-acetyltransferase'.

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