Spotlight on protein N-terminal acetylation

Exp Mol Med. 2018 Jul 27;50(7):1-13. doi: 10.1038/s12276-018-0116-z.


N-terminal acetylation (Nt-acetylation) is a widespread protein modification among eukaryotes and prokaryotes alike. By appending an acetyl group to the N-terminal amino group, the charge, hydrophobicity, and size of the N-terminus is altered in an irreversible manner. This alteration has implications for the lifespan, folding characteristics and binding properties of the acetylated protein. The enzymatic machinery responsible for Nt-acetylation has been largely described, but significant knowledge gaps remain. In this review, we provide an overview of eukaryotic N-terminal acetyltransferases (NATs) and the impact of Nt-acetylation. We also discuss other functions of known NATs and outline methods for studying Nt-acetylation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • N-Terminal Acetyltransferases / chemistry
  • N-Terminal Acetyltransferases / genetics
  • N-Terminal Acetyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*
  • Proteome / chemistry
  • Proteome / metabolism


  • Proteome
  • N-Terminal Acetyltransferases