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Biochemistry. 1993 May 4;32(17):4587-96.

Phosphorylation of human and bovine prothymosin alpha in vivo.

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  • 1Section on Genes and Gene Products, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


Prothymosin alpha is post-translationally modified. When human myeloma cells were metabolically labeled with [32P]orthophosphoric acid, they synthesized [32P]prothymosin alpha. The incorporated radioactivity was resistant to DNase and RNases A, T1, and T2, but could be completely removed by alkaline phosphatase. No evidence was found for an RNA adduct as postulated by Vartapetian et al. [Vartapetian, A., Makarova, T., Koonin, E. V., Agol, V. I., & Bogdanov, A. (1988) FEBS Lett. 232, 35-38]. Thin-layer electrophoresis of partially hydrolyzed [32P]prothymosin alpha indicated that serine residues were phosphorylated. Analysis of peptides derived from bovine prothymosin alpha and human [32P]prothymosin alpha by treatment with endoproteinase Lys-C revealed that the amino-terminal 14-mer, with serine residues at positions 1, 8, and 9, was phosphorylated at a single position. Approximately 2% of the peptide in each case contained phosphate. Further digestion of the phosphopeptide with Asp-N followed by C18 reversed-phase column chromatography produced two peptides: a phosphate-free 9-mer containing amino acids 6-14 and a labeled peptide migrating slightly faster than the N-terminal 5-mer derived from the unmodified 14-mer. Positive identification of the phosphorylated amino acid was obtained by colliding the 14-residue phosphopeptide with helium in the mass spectrometer and finding phosphate only in a nested set of phosphorylated fragments composed of the first three, four, and five amino acids. The results prove that prothymosin alpha contains N-terminal acetylserine phosphate. In a synchronized population of human myeloma cells, phosphorylation occurred throughout the cell cycle. Furthermore, prothymosin alpha appeared to be stable, with a half-life slightly shorter than the generation time. Although prothymosin alpha is known to be essential for cell division, the constancy of both the amount of the protein and the degree of its phosphorylation suggests that prothymosin alpha does not directly govern mitosis.

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