Department of Chemistry

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Analysis of the human proteome has identified thousands of unique protein sequences that contain acetylated lysine residues in vivo. These modifications regulate a variety of biological processes and are reversed by the lysine deacetylase (KDAC) family of enzymes. Despite the known prevalence and importance of acetylation, the details of KDAC substrate recognition are not well understood. While several methods have been developed to monitor protein deacetylation, none are particularly suited for identifying enzyme-substrate pairs of label-free substrates across the entire family of lysine deacetylases. Here, we present a fluorescamine-based assay which is more biologically relevant than existing methods and amenable to probing substrate specificity. Using this assay, we evaluated the activity of KDAC8 and other lysine deacetylases, including a sirtuin, for several peptides derived from known acetylated proteins. KDAC8 showed clear preferences for some peptides over others, indicating that the residues immediately surrounding the acetylated lysine play an important role in substrate specificity. Steady-state kinetics suggest that the sequence surrounding the acetylated lysine affects binding affinity and catalytic rate independently. Our results provide direct evidence that potential KDAC8 substrates previously identified through cell based experiments can be directly deacetylated by KDAC8. Conversely, the data from this assay did not correlate well with predictions from previous screens for KDAC8 substrates using less biologically relevant substrates and assay conditions. Combining results from our assay with mass spectrometry-based experiments and cell-based experiments will allow the identification of specific KDAC-substrate pairs and lead to a better understanding of the biological consequences of these interactions.

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