Protein cysteines (cysteinyl residues) play critical roles in biological processes. In the course of protein evolution under oxidizing atmosphere of the Earth, organisms have utilized highly reactive cysteines in many proteins essential for maintenance of life, i.e. enzymes, transcriptional factors, cytoskeletons, and receptors. In some enzymes, sophistical cysteine modification characterizes each catalytic mechanism. In vivo modification of protein cysteines with natural chemical compounds modulates protein functions as a molecular switch. Oxidation/reduction, thiol-disulfide exchange, nitrosylation, sulfuration, thiolation, acylation and prenylation are involved. Some protein cysteines coordinate metals or metal cofactors such as a heme or an iron sulfur cluster to form metalloproteins, serving as sensor proteins, metalloenzymes or transcriptional factors. Information on the in vitro chemical modifications and their reaction specificities of protein cysteines are essential for the investigation of the mechanisms and functions of in vivo protein cysteine modifications. In this review, we also mention historically important knowledge other than recent results on protein cysteine modification and modulation of protein function to fertilize medical proteomics.
Cysteine modification, Enzyme catalysis, Protein function, Proteomics, Redox regulation
Department of Environmental Medicine, Nippon Medical School, 1-1-5 Sendagi Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113- 8602, Japan.