Fatty acylation of proteins: The long and the short of it

Prog Lipid Res. 2016 Jul:63:120-31. doi: 10.1016/j.plipres.2016.05.002. Epub 2016 May 24.


Long, short and medium chain fatty acids are covalently attached to hundreds of proteins. Each fatty acid confers distinct biochemical properties, enabling fatty acylation to regulate intracellular trafficking, subcellular localization, protein-protein and protein-lipid interactions. Myristate and palmitate represent the most common fatty acid modifying groups. New insights into how fatty acylation reactions are catalyzed, and how fatty acylation regulates protein structure and function continue to emerge. Myristate is typically linked to an N-terminal glycine, but recent studies reveal that lysines can also be myristoylated. Enzymes that remove N-terminal myristoyl-glycine or myristate from lysines have now been identified. DHHC proteins catalyze S-palmitoylation, but the mechanisms that regulate substrate recognition by individual DHHC family members remain to be determined. New studies continue to reveal thioesterases that remove palmitate from S-acylated proteins. Another area of rapid expansion is fatty acylation of the secreted proteins hedgehog, Wnt and Ghrelin, by Hhat, Porcupine and GOAT, respectively. Understanding how these membrane bound O-acyl transferases recognize their protein and fatty acyl CoA substrates is an active area of investigation, and is punctuated by the finding that these enzymes are potential drug targets in human diseases.

Keywords: Depalmitoylation; Lipid rafts; MBOAT family; Myristoyl switch; Myristoylation; Palmitoylation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acylation
  • Acyltransferases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Ghrelin / metabolism
  • Hedgehog Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism


  • Fatty Acids
  • Ghrelin
  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Proteins
  • Wnt Proteins
  • Acyltransferases