Specificity and Versatility of Substrate Binding Sites in Four Catalytic Domains of Human N-Terminal Acetyltransferases

Cédric Grauffel, Angèle Abboud, Glen Liszczak, Ronen Marmorstein, Thomas Arnesen, Nathalie Reuter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Nt-acetylation is among the most common protein modifications in eukaryotes. Although thought for a long time to protect proteins from degradation, the role of Nt-acetylation is still debated. It is catalyzed by enzymes called N-terminal acetyltransferases (NATs). In eukaryotes, several NATs, composed of at least one catalytic domain, target different substrates based on their N-terminal sequences. In order to better understand the substrate specificity of human NATs, we investigated in silico the enzyme-substrate interactions in four catalytic subunits of human NATs (Naa10p, Naa20p, Naa30p and Naa50p). To date hNaa50p is the only human subunit for which X-ray structures are available. We used the structure of the ternary hNaa50p/AcCoA/MLG complex and a structural model of hNaa10p as a starting point for multiple molecular dynamics simulations of hNaa50p/AcCoA/substrate (substrate = MLG, EEE, MKG), hNaa10p/AcCoA/substrate (substrate = MLG, EEE). Nine alanine point-mutants of the hNaa50p/AcCoA/MLG complex were also simulated. Homology models of hNaa20p and hNaa30p were built and compared to hNaa50p and hNaa10p. The simulations of hNaa50p/AcCoA/MLG reproduce the interactions revealed by the X-ray data. We observed strong hydrogen bonds between MLG and tyrosines 31, 138 and 139. Yet the tyrosines interacting with the substrate's backbone suggest that their role in specificity is limited. This is confirmed by the simulations of hNaa50p/AcCoA/EEE and hNaa10p/AcCoA/MLG, where these hydrogen bonds are still observed. Moreover these tyrosines are all conserved in hNaa20p and hNaa30p. Other amino acids tune the specificity of the S1' sites that is different for hNaa10p (acidic), hNaa20p (hydrophobic/basic), hNaa30p (basic) and hNaa50p (hydrophobic). We also observe dynamic correlation between the ligand binding site and helix α2 that tightens under substrate binding. Finally, by comparing the four structures we propose maps of the peptide-enzyme interactions that should help rationalizing substrate-specificity and lay the ground for inhibitor design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere52642
JournalPloS one
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 28 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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