Functional roles for fatty acylated amino-terminal domains in subcellular localization

Mol Biol Cell. 1999 Nov;10(11):3771-86. doi: 10.1091/mbc.10.11.3771.


Several membrane-associating signals, including covalently linked fatty acids, are found in various combinations at the N termini of signaling proteins. The function of these combinations was investigated by appending fatty acylated N-terminal sequences to green fluorescent protein (GFP). Myristoylated plus mono/dipalmitoylated GFP chimeras and a GFP chimera containing a myristoylated plus a polybasic domain were localized similarly to the plasma membrane and endosomal vesicles, but not to the nucleus. Myristoylated, nonpalmitoylated mutant chimeric GFPs were localized to intracellular membranes, including endosomes and the endoplasmic reticulum, and were absent from the plasma membrane, the Golgi, and the nucleus. Dually palmitoylated GFP was localized to the plasma membrane and the Golgi region, but it was not detected in endosomes. Nonacylated GFP chimeras, as well as GFP, showed cytosolic and nuclear distribution. Our results demonstrate that myristoylation is sufficient to exclude GFP from the nucleus and associate with intracellular membranes, but plasma membrane localization requires a second signal, namely palmitoylation or a polybasic domain. The similarity in localization conferred by the various myristoylated and palmitoylated/polybasic sequences suggests that biophysical properties of acylated sequences and biological membranes are key determinants in proper membrane selection. However, dual palmitoylation in the absence of myristoylation conferred significant differences in localization, suggesting that multiple palmitoylation sites and/or enzymes may exist.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acylation
  • Animals
  • COS Cells
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Calreticulin
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / chemistry*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Golgi Apparatus / metabolism
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Intracellular Membranes / chemistry*
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Mutation
  • Myristic Acid / chemistry
  • Palmitic Acids / chemistry
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Ribonucleoproteins / metabolism


  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Calreticulin
  • Fatty Acids
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Palmitic Acids
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Ribonucleoproteins
  • Myristic Acid
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • GTP-Binding Proteins