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Sci. STKE, 10 August 2004
Vol. 2004, Issue 245, p. pe42
AcK-knowledge Reversible Acetylation
Todd Cohen and
Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Duke University, Durham, NC 27710, USA.
In 1966, the histone was identified as the first protein subject to reversible acetylation. The ensuing 30 years of research on histone acetylation has been critical for elucidating how gene transcription and chromatin remodeling are regulated at the molecular level. This central focus on histones, however, has also restricted our understanding of reversible acetylation, and therefore the enzymes that catalyze this reaction, to cellular processes predominantly associated with chromatin. The study of reversible acetylation has become more or less synonymous with histone acetylation. Recent developments—including increased ability to detect acetylated proteins, the characterization of novel acetyltransferases and deacetylases, and the identification of specific inhibitors for these enzymes—have revealed that this histone-central paradigm probably reflects only a fraction of the cellular processes regulated by reversible acetylation. New studies have uncovered unexpected roles for reversible acetylation in many diverse areas, thereby establishing protein acetylation as a highly versatile signaling modification that has functions beyond gene transcription and chromatin remodeling.