Classification and phylogeny for the annotation of novel eukaryotic GNAT acetyltransferases
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionPLoS Computational Biology. 2020, 16(12): e1007988 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1007988
The enzymes of the GCN5-related N-acetyltransferase (GNAT) superfamily count more than 870 000 members through all kingdoms of life and share the same structural fold. GNAT enzymes transfer an acyl moiety from acyl coenzyme A to a wide range of substrates including aminoglycosides, serotonin, glucosamine-6-phosphate, protein N-termini and lysine residues of histones and other proteins. The GNAT subtype of protein N-terminal acetyltransferases (NATs) alone targets a majority of all eukaryotic proteins stressing the omnipresence of the GNAT enzymes. Despite the highly conserved GNAT fold, sequence similarity is quite low between members of this superfamily even when substrates are similar. Furthermore, this superfamily is phylogenetically not well characterized. Thus functional annotation based on sequence similarity is unreliable and strongly hampered for thousands of GNAT members that remain biochemically uncharacterized. Here we used sequence similarity networks to map the sequence space and propose a new classification for eukaryotic GNAT acetyltransferases. Using the new classification, we built a phylogenetic tree, representing the entire GNAT acetyltransferase superfamily. Our results show that protein NATs have evolved more than once on the GNAT acetylation scaffold. We use our classification to predict the function of uncharacterized sequences and verify by in vitro protein assays that two fungal genes encode NAT enzymes targeting specific protein N-terminal sequences, showing that even slight changes on the GNAT fold can lead to change in substrate specificity. In addition to providing a new map of the relationship between eukaryotic acetyltransferases the classification proposed constitutes a tool to improve functional annotation of GNAT acetyltransferases.