Implications for the evolution of eukaryotic amino-terminal acetyltransferase (NAT) enzymes from the structure of an archaeal ortholog

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Glen Liszczak, Ronen Marmorstein


Amino-terminal acetylation is a ubiquitous modification in eukaryotes that is involved in a growing number of biological processes. There are six known eukaryotic amino-terminal acetyltransferases (NATs), which are differentiated from one another on the basis of substrate specificity. To date, two eukaryotic NATs, NatA and NatE, have been structurally characterized, of which NatA will acetylate the α-amino group of a number of nonmethionine amino-terminal residue substrates such as serine; NatE requires a substrate amino-terminal methionine residue for activity. Interestingly, these two NATs use different catalytic strategies to accomplish substrate-specific acetylation. In archaea, where this modification is less prevalent, only one NAT enzyme has been identified. Surprisingly, this enzyme is able to acetylate NatA and NatE substrates and is believed to represent an ancestral NAT variant from which the eukaryotic NAT machinery evolved. To gain insight into the evolution of NAT enzymes, we determined the X-ray crystal structure of an archaeal NAT from Sulfolobus solfataricus (ssNAT). Through the use of mutagenesis and kinetic analysis, we show that the active site of ssNAT represents a hybrid of the NatA and NatE active sites, ...Continue Reading


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