Alanyl-tRNA synthetase, AARS1, is a lactate sensor and lactyltransferase that lactylates p53 and contributes to tumorigenesis

Cell. 2024 May 9;187(10):2375-2392.e33. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2024.04.002. Epub 2024 Apr 22.


Lysine lactylation is a post-translational modification that links cellular metabolism to protein function. Here, we find that AARS1 functions as a lactate sensor that mediates global lysine lacylation in tumor cells. AARS1 binds to lactate and catalyzes the formation of lactate-AMP, followed by transfer of lactate to the lysince acceptor residue. Proteomics studies reveal a large number of AARS1 targets, including p53 where lysine 120 and lysine 139 in the DNA binding domain are lactylated. Generation and utilization of p53 variants carrying constitutively lactylated lysine residues revealed that AARS1 lactylation of p53 hinders its liquid-liquid phase separation, DNA binding, and transcriptional activation. AARS1 expression and p53 lacylation correlate with poor prognosis among cancer patients carrying wild type p53. β-alanine disrupts lactate binding to AARS1, reduces p53 lacylation, and mitigates tumorigenesis in animal models. We propose that AARS1 contributes to tumorigenesis by coupling tumor cell metabolism to proteome alteration.

Keywords: AARS1; LLPS; alanyl-tRNA synthetase 1; lactate; lactylation; lactyltransferase; liquid-liquid phase separation; p53; tumor progression; β-alanine.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogenesis* / genetics
  • Carcinogenesis* / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid* / metabolism
  • Lysine / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53* / metabolism


  • AARS1 protein, human
  • Lactic Acid
  • Lysine
  • TP53 protein, human
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53