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Biochimie. 2005 Aug;87(8):701-12. Epub 2005 Apr 8.

Processed N-termini of mature proteins in higher eukaryotes and their major contribution to dynamic proteomics.

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Protein Maturation and Cell Fate, Institut des Sciences du Végétal, UPR2355, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Bâtiment 23, 1 avenue de la Terrasse, 91198 Gif-sur-Yvette cedex, France.


N-terminal-ubiquitinylation (NTU) is a newly discovered protein degradation pathway initiated by ubiquitin-tagging of the N-terminal alpha-amino group. We have used data from recent genomic studies, especially those on humans, to up-date and re-interpret biochemical data to identify the sequence features associated with NTU. We compared a mini-proteome for which experimental protein sequence is available with large-scale genomic data. We conclude that N-alpha-acetylation involves less than 30%, and not the widely assumed 90%, of the proteins encoded by any higher eukaryote genome, greatly increasing thereby the number of possible targets for NTU-mediated degradation. Next, straightforward rules linking the first N-terminal residues of any nascent polypeptides to the nature of their processed N-termini are established and dedicated prediction tool is made available at . We provide strong arguments indicating that the nature of the processed N-terminus is a major determinant factor of the half-life of the protein. We finally reveal that one third of the nuclear-encoded proteins starting with an unprocessed and unblocked methionine are at least one order of magnitude less stable than is average in higher eukaryotes. This appears to be the first common feature of proteins undergoing N-terminal ubiquitinylation. Hence, a pool of about 3000 proteins in each proteome could be unstable per se and tagged for rapid degradation via NTU.

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