Acetyl coenzyme A (AcCoA), a key intermediate in mitochondrial metabolism, N-acetylates lysine residues, disrupting and, in some cases, regulating protein function. The mitochondrial lysine deacetylase Sirtuin 3 (Sirt3) reverses this modification with benefits reported in diabetes, obesity, and aging. We show that non-enzymatic lysine N-acetylation by AcCoA is greatly enhanced by initial acetylation of a cysteine residue, followed by SN-transfer of the acetyl moiety to a nearby lysine on mitochondrial proteins and synthetic peptides. The frequent occurrence of an S-acetyl intermediate before lysine N-acetylation suggests that proximity to a thioester is a key determinant of lysine susceptibility to acetylation. The thioesterase glyoxalase II (Glo2) can limit protein S-acetylation, thereby preventing subsequent lysine N-acetylation. This suggests that the hitherto obscure role of Glo2 in mitochondria is to act upstream of Sirt3 in minimizing protein N-acetylation, thus limiting protein dysfunction when AcCoA accumulates.
James, A. M., Hoogewijs, K., Logan, A., Hall, A. R., Ding, S., Fearnley, I. M., & Murphy, M. P. (2017). Non-enzymatic N-acetylation of Lysine Residues by AcetylCoA Often Occurs via a Proximal S-acetylated Thiol Intermediate Sensitive to Glyoxalase II. Cell Reports, 18(9), 2105–2112. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2017.02.018