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Concept: Posttranslational modification


Flavonoids have attracted considerable attention in relation to their effects upon health. 8-Prenylnaringenin (8-PN) is found in the common hop (Humulus lupulus) and assumed to be responsible for the health impact of beer consumption. We wanted to clarify the effects of prenylation on the physiological functions of dietary flavonoids by comparing the effects of 8-PN with that of intact naringenin in the prevention of disuse muscle atrophy using a model of denervation in mice. Consumption of 8-PN (but not naringenin) prevented loss of weight in the gastrocnemius muscle further supported by the lack of induction of the protein content of a key ubiquitin ligase involved in muscle atrophy, atrogin-1, and by the activation of Akt phosphorylation. 8-PN content in the gastrocnemius muscle was tenfold higher than that of naringenin. These results suggested that, compared with naringenin, 8-PN was effectively concentrated into skeletal muscle to exert its preventive effects upon disuse muscle atrophy. It is likely that prenylation generates novel functions for 8-PN by enhancing its accumulation into muscle tissue through dietary intake.

Concepts: Nutrition, Muscle, Posttranslational modification, Muscle atrophy, Atrophy, Humulus lupulus, Hops, Humulus


Protein acetylation is an important posttranslational modification with the recent identification of new substrates and enzymes, new links to disease, and modulators of protein acetylation for therapy. α-tubulin acetyltransferase (αTAT1) is the major α-tubulin lysine-40 (K40) acetyltransferase in mammals, nematodes, and protozoa, and its activity plays a conserved role in several microtubule-based processes. Here, we present the X-ray crystal structure of the human αTAT1/acetyl-CoA complex. Together with structure-based mutagenesis, enzymatic analysis, and functional studies in cells, we elucidate the catalytic mechanism and mode of tubulin-specific acetylation. We find that αTAT1 has an overall fold similar to the Gcn5 histone acetyltransferase but contains a relatively wide substrate binding groove and unique structural elements that play important roles in α-tubulin-specific acetylation. Conserved aspartic acid and cysteine residues play important catalytic roles through a ternary complex mechanism. αTAT1 mutations have analogous effects on tubulin acetylation in vitro and in cells, demonstrating that it is the central determining factor of α-tubulin K40 acetylation levels in vivo. Together, these studies provide general insights into distinguishing features between histone and tubulin acetyltransferases, and they have specific implications for understanding the molecular basis of tubulin acetylation and for developing small molecule modulators of microtubule acetylation for therapy.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Enzyme, Histone, Posttranslational modification, Lysine, Acetylation, Histone acetyltransferase


Learning induced changes in protein acetylation, mediated by histone acetyl transferases (HATs), and the antagonistic histone deacetylases (HDACs) play a critical role in memory formation. The status of histone acetylation affects the interaction between the transcription-complex and DNA and thus regulates transcription-dependent processes required for long-term memory (LTM). While the majority of studies report on the role of elevated acetylation in memory facilitation, we address the impact of both, increased and decreased acetylation on formation of appetitive olfactory memory in honeybees. We show that learning-induced changes in the acetylation of histone H3 at aminoacid-positions H3K9 and H3K18 exhibit distinct and different dynamics depending on the training strength. A strong training that induces LTM leads to an immediate increase in acetylation at H3K18 that stays elevated for hours. A weak training, not sufficient to trigger LTM, causes an initial increase in acetylation at H3K18, followed by a strong reduction in acetylation at H3K18 below the control group level. Acetylation at position H3K9 is not affected by associative conditioning, indicating specific learning-induced actions on the acetylation machinery. Elevating acetylation levels by blocking HDACs after conditioning leads to an improved memory. While memory after strong training is enhanced for at least 2 days, the enhancement after weak training is restricted to 1 day. Reducing acetylation levels by blocking HAT activity after strong training leads to a suppression of transcription-dependent LTM. The memory suppression is also observed in case of weak training, which does not require transcription processes. Thus, our findings demonstrate that acetylation-mediated processes act as bidirectional regulators of memory formation that facilitate or suppress memory independent of its transcription-requirement.

Concepts: DNA, Histone, Histone deacetylase, Posttranslational modification, Nucleosome, Acetylation, Histone H3, Histone acetyltransferase


The 11 members of the Membrane-associated RING-CH (MARCH) ubiquitin ligase family are relatively unexplored. Upon exogenous (over)expression, a number of these ligases can affect the trafficking of membrane molecules, but only in case of MARCH-1 endogenous functions have been demonstrated. Of the other endogenous MARCH proteins, no functions or substrates are known. We report here that TRAIL-receptor ®1 is a physiological substrate of the endogenous MARCH-8 ligase. The two human TRAIL death receptors play a role in immunosurveillance and are targets for cancer therapy, since they selectively induce apoptosis in tumor cells. We demonstrate that TRAIL-R1 is downregulated from the cell surface, with great preference over TRAIL-R2, by exogenous expression of MARCH ligases that are implicated in endosomal trafficking, such as MARCH-1 and -8. MARCH-8 attenuated TRAIL-R1 cell surface expression and apoptosis signaling by virtue of its ligase activity. This suggested that ubiquitination of TRAIL-R1 was instrumental in its downregulation by MARCH-8. Indeed, in cells with endogenous MARCH expression, TRAIL-R1 was ubiquitinated at steady-state, with the conserved membrane-proximal lysine 273 as interaction and potential acceptor site. This residue was also essential for the interaction of TRAIL-R1 with MARCH-1 and MARCH-8 and its downregulation by these ligases. Gene silencing identified MARCH-8 as the endogenous ligase that ubiquitinates TRAIL-R1 and attenuates its cell surface expression. These findings reveal that endogenous MARCH-8 regulates the steady-state cell surface expression of TRAIL-R1.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Cancer, Enzyme, Posttranslational modification, Proteasome, Ubiquitin, Ubiquitin ligase


The human selenoprotein thioredoxin reductase 1 (TrxR1), encoded by the TXNRD1 gene, is a key player in redox regulation. Alternative splicing generates several TrxR1 variants, one of which is v3 that carries an atypical N-terminal glutaredoxin domain. When overexpressed, v3 associates with membranes and triggers formation of filopodia. Here we found that membrane targeting of v3 is mediated by myristoylation and palmitoylation of its N-terminal MGC-motif, through which v3 specifically targets membrane rafts. This was suggested by its localization in cholera toxin subunit B-stained membrane areas and also shown using lipid fractionation experiments. Utilizing site-directed mutant variants we also found that v3-mediated generation of filopodia is independent of the Cys residues in its redox active site, but dependent upon its membrane raft targeting. These results identify v3 as an intricately regulated protein that expands TXNRD1-derived protein functions to the membrane raft compartment.

Concepts: Protein, Gene expression, Cell membrane, Messenger RNA, Posttranslational modification, Lipid raft, Selenocysteine, Thioredoxin reductase


There is collecting evidence suggesting that the process of chromatin remodeling such as changes in histone acetylation contribute to the formation of stress-related memory. Recently, the ventrolateral orbital cortex (VLO), a major subdivision of orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), was shown to be involved in antidepressant-like actions through epigenetic mechanisms. Here, we further investigated the effects of the histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDACi) valproic acid (VPA) on stress-related memory formation and the underlying molecular mechanisms by using the traditional two-day forced swimming test (FST). The results showed that VPA significantly increased the immobility time on day 2 when infused into the VLO before the initial forced swim stress on day 1. The learned immobility response to the stress was associated with increased phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) in VLO and hippocampus on the first day. The levels of phosphorylated ERK (phospho-ERK) in VLO and hippocampus were significantly decreased when retested 24 h later. The pretreatment with intra-VLO VPA infusion further reduced the activation of ERK on day 2 and day 7 compared with the saline controls. Moreover, the VPA infusion pretreatment also induced a significantly decreased BDNF level in the VLO on day 2, whereas no change was detected in the hippocampus. These findings suggest that VPA enhance the memories of emotionally stressful events and the ERK activity is implicated in stimulating adaptive and mnemonic processes in case the event would recur.

Concepts: Histone, Epigenetics, Histone deacetylase, Posttranslational modification, Memory, Limbic system, Acetylation, Histone-Modifying Enzymes


Post-translational modifications (PTMs) play a key role in numerous cellular processes by directly affecting structure, dynamics and interaction networks of target proteins. Despite their importance, our understanding of protein PTMs at the atomistic level is still largely incomplete. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, which provide high-resolution insight into biomolecular function and underlying mechanisms, are in principle ideally suited to tackle this problem. However, because of the challenges associated with the development of novel MD parameters and a general lack of suitable computational tools for incorporating PTMs in target protein structures, MD simulations of post-translationally modified proteins have historically lagged significantly behind the studies of unmodified proteins. Here, we present Vienna-PTM web server (, a platform for automated introduction of PTMs of choice to protein 3D structures (PDB files) in a user-friendly visual environment. With 256 different enzymatic and non-enzymatic PTMs available, the server performs geometrically realistic introduction of modifications at sites of interests, as well as subsequent energy minimization. Finally, the server makes available force field parameters and input files needed to run MD simulations of modified proteins within the framework of the widely used GROMOS 54A7 and 45A3 force fields and GROMACS simulation package.

Concepts: Protein structure, Amino acid, Molecular biology, Molecular dynamics, Posttranslational modification, GROMACS, GROMOS


A number of intravenous immunoglobulin preparations are stabilized with sugar additives that may lead over time to undesirable glycation reactions especially in liquid formulation. This study aims to evaluate the reactivity of sugar excipients on such preparations in condition of temperature, formulation and concentration commonly used for pharmaceutical products. Through an innovative LC-MS method reported to characterize post-translational modifications of IgGs Fc/2 fragments, a stability study of IVIg formulated with reducing and non-reducing sugars has been undertaken. The rate of polyclonal IgGs glycation was investigated during 6 months at 5, 25, 30 and 40°C. High levels of glycation were observed with reducing sugars like glucose and maltose in the first months of the stability study from 25°C. Non-reducing sugars presented a low reactivity even at the highest tested temperature (40°C). Furthermore, a site by site analysis was performed by MS/MS to determine the glycation sites which were mainly identified at Lys246, Lys248 and Lys324. This work points out the high probability of glycation reactions in some commercialized products and describes a useful method to characterize IVIg glycated products issued from reducing sugar excipients.

Concepts: Immune system, Glucose, Posttranslational modification, Carbohydrate, Disaccharide, Fructose, Glycation, Sucrose


The final step in post-translational processing of Ras and Rho GTPases involves methylation of the prenylated cysteine residue by an isoprenylcysteine-O-carboxyl methyltransferase (ICMT). ICMT activity is essential for cell growth and development in higher eukaryotes, and inhibition of GTPase methylation has become an attractive target in cancer therapy to inactivate prenylated oncoproteins. However, the specificity and dynamics of the GTPase methylation process remain to be fully clarified. Notably, cells lacking Mam4, the ICMT ortholog in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe, are viable. We have exploited this feature to analyze the role of methylation on GTPase localization and function. We show that methylation differentially affects GTPase membrane localization, being particularly relevant for plasma membrane tethering and downstream signaling of palmitoylated and farnesylated GTPases Ras1 and Rho2 lacking C-terminal polybasic motifs. Indeed, Ras1 and Rho2 cysteine methylation is required for proper regulation of differentiation elicited by MAPK Spk1 and for stress-dependent activation of the cell integrity pathway (CIP) and its main effector MAPK Pmk1. Further, Mam4 negatively regulates TORC2 signaling by a cross-inhibitory mechanism relying on Rho GTPase methylation. These results highlight the requirement for a tight control of GTPase methylation in vivo to allow adequate GTPase function.

Concepts: Protein, Bacteria, Yeast, Model organism, Posttranslational modification, Ascomycota, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Schizosaccharomyces


The recently discovered histone post-translational modification crotonylation connects cellular metabolism to gene regulation. Its regulation and tissue-specific functions are poorly understood. We characterize histone crotonylation in intestinal epithelia and find that histone H3 crotonylation at lysine 18 is a surprisingly abundant modification in the small intestine crypt and colon, and is linked to gene regulation. We show that this modification is highly dynamic and regulated during the cell cycle. We identify class I histone deacetylases, HDAC1, HDAC2, and HDAC3, as major executors of histone decrotonylation. We show that known HDAC inhibitors, including the gut microbiota-derived butyrate, affect histone decrotonylation. Consistent with this, we find that depletion of the gut microbiota leads to a global change in histone crotonylation in the colon. Our results suggest that histone crotonylation connects chromatin to the gut microbiota, at least in part, via short-chain fatty acids and HDACs.

Concepts: DNA, Bacteria, Amino acid, Nutrition, Histone, Histone deacetylase, Posttranslational modification, Acetylation