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Acc Chem Res. 2011 Sep 20;44(9):699-708. doi: 10.1021/ar200063v. Epub 2011 Jun 15.

Bioorthogonal chemical reporters for analyzing protein lipidation and lipid trafficking.

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Laboratory of Chemical Biology and Microbial Pathogenesis, The Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue, New York, New York 10065, USA.


Protein lipidation and lipid trafficking control many key biological functions in all kingdoms of life. The discovery of diverse lipid species and their covalent attachment to many proteins has revealed a complex and regulated network of membranes and lipidated proteins that are central to fundamental aspects of physiology and human disease. Given the complexity of lipid trafficking and the protein targeting mechanisms involved with membrane lipids, precise and sensitive methods are needed to monitor and identify these hydrophobic molecules in bacteria, yeast, and higher eukaryotes. Although many analytical methods have been developed for characterizing membrane lipids and covalently modified proteins, traditional reagents and approaches have limited sensitivity, do not faithfully report on the lipids of interest, or are not readily accessible. The invention of bioorthogonal ligation reactions, such as the Staudinger ligation and azide-alkyne cycloadditions, has provided new tools to address these limitations, and their use has begun to yield fresh insight into the biology of protein lipidation and lipid trafficking. In this Account, we discuss how these new bioorthogonal ligation reactions and lipid chemical reporters afford new opportunities for exploring the biology of lipid-modified proteins and lipid trafficking. Lipid chemical reporters from our laboratory and several other research groups have enabled improved detection and large-scale proteomic analysis of fatty-acylated and prenylated proteins. For example, fatty acid and isoprenoid chemical reporters in conjunction with bioorthogonal ligation methods have circumvented the limited sensitivity and hazards of radioactive analogues, allowing rapid and robust fluorescent detection of lipidated proteins in all organisms tested. These chemical tools have revealed alterations in protein lipidation in different cellular states and are beginning to provide unique insights in mechanisms of regulation. Notably, the purification of proteins labeled with lipid chemical reporters has allowed both the large-scale analysis of lipidated proteins as well as the discovery of new lipidated proteins involved in metabolism, gene expression, and innate immunity. Specific lipid reporters have also been developed to monitor the trafficking of soluble lipids; these species are enabling bioorthogonal imaging of membranes in cells and tissues. Future advances in bioorthogonal chemistry, specific lipid reporters, and spectroscopy should provide important new insight into the functional roles of lipidated proteins and membranes in biology.

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