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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Dec 5;92(25):11776-80.

Mutagenesis of palmitoylation sites in endothelial nitric oxide synthase identifies a novel motif for dual acylation and subcellular targeting.

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  • 1Cardiovascular Division, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The endothelial nitric oxide synthase (ec-NOS) plays a key role in the transduction of signals from the bloodstream to the underlying smooth muscle. ecNOS undergoes a complex series of covalent modifications, including myristoylation and palmitoylation, which appear to play a role in ecNOS membrane association. Mutagenesis of the myristoylation site, which prevents both myristoylation and palmitoylation, blocks ecNOS targeting to cell membranes. Further, as described for some G-protein alpha subunits, both membrane association and palmitoylation of ecNOS are dynamically regulated: in response to agonists, the enzyme undergoes partial redistribution to the cell cytosol concomitant with depalmitoylation. To clarify the role of palmitoylation in determining ecNOS subcellular localization, we have constructed palmitoylation-deficient mutants of ecNOS. Serine was substituted for cysteine at two potential palmitoylation sites (Cys-15 and Cys-26) by site-directed mutagenesis. Immunoprecipitation of ecNOS mutants following cDNA transfection and biosynthetic labeling with [3H]palmitate revealed that mutagenesis of either cysteine residue attenuated palmitoylation, whereas replacement of both residues completely eliminated palmitoylation. Analysis of N-terminal deletion mutations of ecNOS demonstrated that the region containing these two cysteine residues is both necessary and sufficient for enzyme palmitoylation. The cysteines thus identified as the palmitoylation sites for ecNOS are separated by an unusual (Gly-Leu)5 sequence and appear to define a sequence motif for dual acylation. We analyzed the subcellular distribution of ecNOS mutants by differential ultracentrifugation and found that mutagenesis of the ecNOS palmitoylation sites markedly reduced membrane association of the enzyme. These results document that ecNOS palmitoylation is an important determinant for the subcellular distribution of ecNOS and identify a new motif for the reversible palmitoylation of signaling proteins.

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