Palmitoylation of the ciliary GTPase ARL13b is necessary for its stability and its role in cilia formation

J Biol Chem. 2017 Oct 27;292(43):17703-17717. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M117.792937. Epub 2017 Aug 28.


Primary cilia are hairlike extensions of the plasma membrane of most mammalian cells that serve specialized signaling functions. To traffic properly to cilia, multiple cilia proteins rely on palmitoylation, the post-translational attachment of a saturated 16-carbon lipid. However, details regarding the mechanism of how palmitoylation affects cilia protein localization and function are unknown. Herein, we investigated the protein ADP-ribosylation factor-like GTPase 13b (ARL13b) as a model palmitoylated ciliary protein. Using biochemical, cellular, and in vivo studies, we found that ARL13b palmitoylation occurs in vivo in mouse kidneys and that it is required for trafficking to and function within cilia. Myristoylation, a 14-carbon lipid, is shown to largely substitute for palmitoylation with regard to cilia localization of ARL13b, but not with regard to its function within cilia. The functional importance of palmitoylation results in part from a dramatic increase in ARL13b stability, which is not observed with myristoylation. Additional results show that blockade of depalmitoylation slows the degradation of ARL13b that occurs during cilia resorption, raising the possibility that the sensitivity of ARL13b stability to palmitoylation may be exploited by the cell to accelerate degradation of ARL13b by depalmitoylating it. Together, the results show that palmitoylation plays a unique and critical role in controlling the localization, stability, abundance, and thus function of ARL13b. Pharmacological manipulation of protein palmitoylation may be a strategy to alter cilia function.

Keywords: cilia; post-translational modification (PTM); protein palmitoylation; protein stability; protein targeting.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • ADP-Ribosylation Factors / genetics
  • ADP-Ribosylation Factors / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cilia / enzymology
  • Cilia / genetics
  • Enzyme Stability / physiology
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Lipoylation / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Protein Transport / physiology


  • ADP-Ribosylation Factors
  • Arl13b protein, human