Arylamine N-acetyltransferase Aggregation and Constitutive Ubiquitylation

Fen Liu, Naixia Zhang, Xin Zhou, Patrick E. Hanna, Carston R. Wagner, Deanna M. Koepp, Kylie J. Walters

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36 Scopus citations


Arylamine N-acetyltransferases (NAT1 and NAT2) acetylate and detoxify arylamine carcinogens. Humans harboring certain genetic variations within the NAT genes exhibit increased likelihood of developing various cancer types, especially urinary bladder cancer. Such DNA polymorphisms result in protein products with reduced cellular activity, which is proposed to be due to their constitutive ubiquitylation and enhanced proteasomal degradation. To identify the properties that lead to the reduced cellular activity of certain NAT variants, we introduced one such polymorphism into the human NAT1 ortholog hamster NAT2. The polymorphism chosen was human NAT1*17, which results in the replacement of R64 with a tryptophan residue, and we demonstrate this substitution to cause hamster NAT2 to be constitutively ubiquitylated. Biophysical characterization of the hamster NAT2 R64W variant revealed that its overall protein structure and thermostability are not compromised. In addition, we used steady-state kinetics experiments to demonstrate that the R64W mutation does not interfere with NAT catalysis in vitro. Hence, the constitutive ubiquitylation of this variant is not caused by its inability to be acetylated. Instead, we demonstrate this mutation to cause the hamster NAT2 protein to aggregate in vitro and in vivo. Importantly, we tested and confirmed that the R64W mutation also causes human NAT1 to aggregate in cultured cells. By using homology modeling, we demonstrate that R64 is located at a peripheral location, which provides an explanation for how the NAT protein structure is not significantly disturbed by its mutation to tryptophan. Altogether, we provide fundamental information on why humans harboring certain NAT variants exhibit reduced acetylation capabilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)482-492
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 18 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Dr Kevin Mayo and Dr Len Banaszak for the use of their CD spectrometer and DLS instrument, respectively. NMR data were acquired in the NMR facility of the UMN and we thank Dr David Live and Dr Beverly Ostrowsky for their technical assistance. Data processing and visualization occurred in the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute Basic Sciences Computing Laboratory. This work was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health CA097004 (K.J.W.) and the UMN Grant-in-Aid of Research, Artistry, and Scholarship (K.J.W.), Minnesota Medical Foundation (K.J.W., NMR facility), Academic Health Center Faculty Research Development Grant (K.J.W., D.M.K., C.R.W., P.E.H.) and NSF BIR-961477 (NMR facility).


  • arylamine N-acetyltransferase
  • polymorphism
  • protein aggregation
  • protein degradation
  • ubiquitylation


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