ReviewPosttranslational Modifications

Chronoregulation by Asparagine Deamidation

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Science's STKE  23 Oct 2007:
Vol. 2007, Issue 409, pp. re7
DOI: 10.1126/stke.4092007re7

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Every asparagine in every protein undergoes nonenzymatic deamidation to aspartate or isoaspartate at a rate determined by the surrounding protein structure and cellular environment. Under physiologic conditions, the deamidation half-life of individual asparagines in proteins is proposed to range from less than a day to several centuries. More than 200 proteins have been shown to undergo deamidation to a meaningful degree, and modeling predicts that hundreds more undergo deamidation at rates that have the potential to be of biological consequence. Because deamidation converts an asparagine into an aspartate or isoaspartate, it introduces a negative charge into a protein and results in the isomerization of a residue. Therefore, deamidation has the potential to change protein function. Additionally, deamidation is thought to render some proteins more susceptible to degradation. In most instances in which asparagine deamidation has been identified in vivo, it is involved in pathology. Hence, deamidation has been viewed primarily as a form of protein damage. However, the pervasiveness and evolutionary persistence of these unstable asparagines suggest that they may have a beneficial role. Notably, the change of even a single neighboring amino acid can have a marked effect on the rate of deamidation of an asparagine. Therefore, the underlying rate of deamidation of any asparagine is genetically programmable. This characteristic, combined with the wide range of deamidation rates that can be programmed, imparts to asparagines the potential to serve as molecular timers that regulate protein function and stability.

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