PloS one

Palmitoylation of the immunity related GTPase, Irgm1: impact on membrane localization and ability to promote mitochondrial fission.

PMID 24751652


The Immunity-Related GTPases (IRG) are a family of large GTPases that mediate innate immune responses. Irgm1 is particularly critical for immunity to bacteria and protozoa, and for inflammatory homeostasis in the intestine. Although precise functions for Irgm1 have not been identified, prior studies have suggested roles in autophagy/mitophagy, phagosome remodeling, cell motility, and regulating the activity of other IRG proteins. These functions ostensibly hinge on the ability of Irgm1 to localize to intracellular membranes, such as those of the Golgi apparatus and mitochondria. Previously, it has been shown that an amphipathic helix, the αK helix, in the C-terminal portion of the protein partially mediates membrane binding. However, in absence of αK, there is still substantial binding of Irgm1 to cellular membranes, suggesting the presence of other membrane binding motifs. In the current work, an additional membrane localization motif was found in the form of palmitoylation at a cluster of cysteines near the αK. An Irgm1 mutant possessing alanine to cysteine substitutions at these amino acids demonstrated little residual palmitoylation, yet it displayed only a small decrease in localization to the Golgi and mitochondria. In contrast, a mutant containing the palmitoylation mutations in combination with mutations disrupting the amphipathic character of the αK displayed a complete loss of apparent localization to the Golgi and mitochondria, as well as an overall loss of association with cellular membranes in general. Additionally, Irgm1 was found to promote mitochondrial fission, and this function was undermined in Irgm1 mutants lacking the palmitoylation domain, and to a greater extent in those lacking the αK, or the αK and palmitoylation domains combined. Our data suggest that palmitoylation together with the αK helix firmly anchor Irgm1 in the Golgi and mitochondria, thus facilitating function of the protein.