S-Palmitoylation of Synaptic Proteins as a Novel Mechanism Underlying Sex-Dependent Differences in Neuronal Plasticity

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Jun 10;22(12):6253. doi: 10.3390/ijms22126253.


Although sex differences in the brain are prevalent, the knowledge about mechanisms underlying sex-related effects on normal and pathological brain functioning is rather poor. It is known that female and male brains differ in size and connectivity. Moreover, those differences are related to neuronal morphology, synaptic plasticity, and molecular signaling pathways. Among different processes assuring proper synapse functions are posttranslational modifications, and among them, S-palmitoylation (S-PALM) emerges as a crucial mechanism regulating synaptic integrity. Protein S-PALM is governed by a family of palmitoyl acyltransferases, also known as DHHC proteins. Here we focused on the sex-related functional importance of DHHC7 acyltransferase because of its S-PALM action over different synaptic proteins as well as sex steroid receptors. Using the mass spectrometry-based PANIMoni method, we identified sex-dependent differences in the S-PALM of synaptic proteins potentially involved in the regulation of membrane excitability and synaptic transmission as well as in the signaling of proteins involved in the structural plasticity of dendritic spines. To determine a mechanistic source for obtained sex-dependent changes in protein S-PALM, we analyzed synaptoneurosomes isolated from DHHC7-/- (DHHC7KO) female and male mice. Our data showed sex-dependent action of DHHC7 acyltransferase. Furthermore, we revealed that different S-PALM proteins control the same biological processes in male and female synapses.

Keywords: DHHC7; palmitoylation; posttranslational modifications; proteomics; sexes; synapses; synaptic plasticity.

MeSH terms

  • Acyltransferases / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Lipoylation*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*
  • Sex Factors
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission*


  • Acyltransferases
  • Dhhc7 protein, mouse