N-terminal N-myristoylation of proteins: refinement of the sequence motif and its taxon-specific differences

J Mol Biol. 2002 Apr 5;317(4):523-40. doi: 10.1006/jmbi.2002.5425.


N-terminal N-myristoylation is a lipid anchor modification of eukaryotic and viral proteins targeting them to membrane locations, thus changing the cellular function of modified proteins. Protein myristoylation is critical in many pathways; e.g. in signal transduction, apoptosis, or alternative extracellular protein export. The myristoyl-CoA:protein N-myristoyltransferase (NMT) recognizes the sequence motif of appropriate substrate proteins at the N terminus and attaches the lipid moiety to the absolutely required N-terminal glycine residue. Reliable recognition of capacity for N-terminal myristoylation from the substrate protein sequence alone is desirable for proteome-wide function annotation projects but the existing PROSITE motif is not practical, since it produces huge numbers of false positive and even some false negative predictions. As a first step towards a new prediction method, it is necessary to refine the sequence motif coding for N-terminal N-myristoylation. Relying on the in-depth study of the amino acid sequence variability of substrate proteins, on binding site analyses in X-ray structures or 3D homology models for NMTs from various taxa, and on consideration of biochemical data extracted from the scientific literature, we found indications that, at least within a complete substrate protein, the N-terminal 17 protein residues experience different types of variability restrictions. We identified three motif regions: region 1 (positions 1-6) fitting the binding pocket; region 2 (positions 7-10) interacting with the NMT's surface at the mouth of the catalytic cavity; and region 3 (positions 11-17) comprising a hydrophilic linker. Each region was characterized by physical requirements to single sequence positions or groups of positions regarding volume, polarity, backbone flexibility and other typical properties of amino acids (http://mendel.imp.univie.ac.at/myristate/). These specificity differences are confined partly to taxonomic ranges and are proposed for the design of NMT inhibitors in pathogenic fungal and protozoan systems including Aspergillus fumigatus, Leishmania major, Trypanosoma cruzi, Trypanosoma brucei, Giardia intestinalis, Entamoeba histolytica, Pneumocystis carinii, Strongyloides stercoralis and Schistosoma mansoni. An exhaustive search for NMT-homologues led to the discovery of two putative entomopoxviral NMTs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acyltransferases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Acyltransferases / metabolism
  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Candida albicans
  • Catalysis
  • Computational Biology
  • Databases, Protein
  • Humans
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Myristic Acid / metabolism*
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Species Specificity
  • Static Electricity
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Viruses / metabolism


  • Proteins
  • Myristic Acid
  • Acyltransferases
  • glycylpeptide N-tetradecanoyltransferase