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Posttranslational modification of tubulin by palmitoylation: II. Identification of sites of palmitoylation.

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Abstract

As shown in the companion article, tubulin is posttranslationally modified in vivo by palmitoylation. Our goal in this study was to identify the palmitoylation sites by protein structure analysis. To obtain quantities of palmitoylated tubulin required for this analysis, a cell-free system for enzymatic [3H]palmitoylation was developed and characterized in our companion article. We then developed a methodology to examine directly the palmitoylation of all 451 amino acids of alpha-tubulin. 3H-labeled palmitoylated alpha-tubulin was cleaved with cyanogen bromide (CNBr). The CNBr digest was resolved according to peptide size by gel filtration on Sephadex LH60 in formic acid:ethanol. The position of 3H-labeled palmitoylated amino acids in peptides could not be identified by analysis of the Edman degradation sequencer product because the palmitoylated sequencer products were lost during the final derivatization step to phenylthiohydantoin derivatives. Modification of the gas/liquid-phase sequencer to deliver the intermediate anilinothiozolinone derivative, rather than the phenylthiohydantoin derivative, identified the cycle containing the 3H-labeled palmitoylated residue. Therefore, structure analysis of peptides obtained from gel filtration necessitated dual sequencer runs of radioactive peptides, one for sequence analysis and one to identify 3H-labeled palmitoylated amino acids. Further cleavage of the CNBr peptides by trypsin and Lys-C protease, followed by gel filtration on Sephadex LH60 and dual sequencer runs, positioned the 3H-labeled palmitoylated amino acid residues in peptides. Integration of all the available structural information led to the assignment of the palmitoyl moiety to specific residues in alpha-tubulin. The palmitoylated residues in alpha-tubulin were confined to cysteine residues only. The major site for palmitoylation was cysteine residue 376.

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