Protein prenylation is a ubiquitous covalent post-translational modification found in all eukaryotic cells, comprising of attachment of either a farnesyl or a geranylgeranyl isoprenoid. It is essential for the proper cellular activity of numerous proteins, including Ras family GTPases and heterotrimeric G-proteins. Inhibition of prenylation has been extensively investigated to suppress the activity of oncogenic Ras proteins to achieve anti-tumor activity. Here, we review the biochemistry of the prenyltransferase enzymes and numerous isoprenoid analogs synthesized to investigate various aspects of prenylation and prenyltransferases. We also give an account of the current status of the prenyltransferase inhibitors as potential therapeutics against several diseases including cancers, progeria, aging, parasitic diseases and bacterial and viral infections. Finally, we discuss recent progress in utilizing protein prenylation for site-specific protein labeling for various biotechnology applications.
Protein prenylation is a post-translational modification required for proper cellular localization and activity of many important eukaryotic proteins. Farnesyltransferase inhibitors (FTIs) have been explored extensively for their antitumor activity. To assist in identifying potentially new and more useful markers for therapeutic applications, we developed a strategy that uses a combination of metabolic labeling and 2D DIGE (differential gel electrophoresis) to discover new prenylated proteins whose cellular levels are influenced by FTIs. In this approach, metabolic labeling of prenylated proteins was first carried out with an alkyne-modified isoprenoid analog, C15Alk, in the presence or absence of the FTI L-744,832. The resulting alkyne-tagged proteins were then labeled with Cy3-N3 and Cy5-N3 and subjected to 2D-DIGE. Multiple spots having altered levels of labeling in presence of the FTI were observed. Mass spectrometric analysis of some of the differentially labeled spots identified several known prenylated proteins, along with HisRS, PACN-3, GNAI-1 and GNAI-2, which are not known to be prenylated. In vitro farnesylation of a C-terminal peptide sequence derived from GNAI-1 and GNAI-2 produced a farnesylated product, suggesting GNAI-1 and GNAI-2 are potential novel farnesylated proteins. These results suggest that this new strategy could be useful for the identification of prenylated proteins whose level of post-translational modification has been modulated by the presence of an FTI. Additionally, this approach, which decreases sample complexity and thereby facilitates analysis, should be applicable to studies of other post-translational modifications as well.
Protein prenyltransferases catalyze the attachment of C15 (farnesyl) and C20 (geranylgeranyl) groups to proteins at specific sequences localized at or near the C-termini of specific proteins. Determination of the specific protein prenyltransferase substrates affected by the inhibition of these enzymes is critical for enhancing knowledge of the mechanism of such potential drugs. Here, we investigate the utility of alkyne-containing isoprenoid analogs for chemical proteomics experiments by showing that these compounds readily penetrate mammalian cells in culture and become incorporated into proteins that are normally prenylated. Derivatization via Cu(I) catalyzed click reaction with a fluorescent azide reagent allows the proteins to be visualized and their relative levels to be analyzed. Simultaneous treatment of cells with these probes and inhibitors of prenylation reveals decreases in the levels of some but not all of the labeled proteins. Two-dimensional electrophoretic separation of these labeled proteins followed by mass spectrometric analysis allowed several labeled proteins to be unambiguously identified. Docking experiments and density functional theory calculations suggest that the substrate specificity of protein farnesyl transferase may vary depending on whether azide- or alkyne-based isoprenoid analogs is employed. These results demonstrate the utility of alkyne-containing analogs for chemical proteomic applications.
An unprecedented transfer of a thiocyanate (-SCN) group from aroyl/acyl isothiocyanate to alkyl or benzylic bromide is observed in the presence of a tertiary amine. This process is most effective when the bromomethyl proton is less acidic, while the presence of a more acidic proton gives 1,3-oxathiol-2-ylidine and other related products.
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