Mechanistic effects of protein palmitoylation and the cellular consequences thereof

S-palmitoylation involves the attachment of a 16-carbon long fatty acid chain to the cysteine residues of proteins. The process is enzymatic and dynamic with DHHC enzymes mediating palmitoylation and acyl-protein thioesterases reverting the reaction. Proteins that undergo this modification span almost all cellular functions. While the increase in hydrophobicity generated by palmitoylation has the obvious consequence of triggering membrane association, the effects on transmembrane proteins are less intuitive and span a vast range. We review here the current knowledge on palmitoylating and depalmitoylating enzymes, the methods that allow the study of this lipid modification and which drugs can affect it, and finally we focus on four cellular processes for which recent studies reveal an involvement of palmitoylation: endocytosis, reproduction and cell growth, fat and sugar homeostasis and signal transduction at the synapse. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.


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