Hydrophobic Modifications of Biomolecules: An Introduction
Nucleic acids and proteins, the biomolecules that carry all necessary information for life in the cell, undergo very often modifications in the primary coding elements of their sequences. Some of the bases in the DNA and RNA and the majority of the amino acids in the protein can incorporate new functional groups through a covalent addition. By means of these modifications, the genetically encoded functions of active proteins or the expression patterns of the DNA are affected, leading to changes at the physiological level. These modifications are generally catalyzed by one of the most abundant enzyme families in the cell, the transferases. The importance of this enzyme family is evidenced by the fact that many of them are subject to a strict regulation since they are implicated in key cellular mechanisms. Most of these modifications cause a local increase in hydrophobicity at the biomolecule that leads to changes in protein-protein and protein-nucleic acid interactions. A relevant example for nucleic acid modification is the methylation, while alkylation, lipidation, acetylation, and ubiquitination are frequent hydrophobic modifications of proteins.
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