Journal of the American Chemical Society

Robust fluorescent detection of protein fatty-acylation with chemical reporters.

PMID 19281244


Fatty-acylation of proteins in eukaryotes is associated with many fundamental cellular processes but has been challenging to study due to limited tools for rapid and robust detection of protein fatty-acylation in cells. The development of azido-fatty acids enabled the nonradioactive detection of fatty-acylated proteins in mammalian cells using the Staudinger ligation and biotinylated phosphine reagents. However, the visualization of protein fatty-acylation with streptavidin blotting is highly variable and not ideal for robust detection of fatty-acylated proteins. Here we report the development of alkynyl-fatty acid chemical reporters and improved bioorthogonal labeling conditions using the Cu(I)-catalyzed Huisgen [3 + 2] cycloaddition that enables specific and sensitive fluorescence detection of fatty-acylated proteins in mammalian cells. These improvements allow the rapid and robust biochemical analysis of fatty-acylated proteins expressed at endogenous levels in mammalian cells by in-gel fluorescence scanning. In addition, alkynyl-fatty acid chemical reporters enable the visualization of fatty-acylated proteins in cells by fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry. The ability to rapidly visualize protein fatty-acylation in cells using fluorescence detection methods therefore provides new opportunities to interrogate the functions and regulatory mechanisms of fatty-acylated proteins in physiology and disease.