Targeting of C-terminal (tail)-anchored proteins: understanding how cytoplasmic activities are anchored to intracellular membranes

Binks Wattenberg, Trevor James Lithgow

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153 Citations (Scopus)


A class of integral membrane proteins, referred to as tail-anchored proteins , are inserted into phospholipid bilayers via a single segment of hydrophobic amino acids at the C-terminus, thereby displaying a large functional domain in the cytosol. This membrane attachment strategy allows eukaryotic cells to position a wide range of cytoplasmic activities close to the surface of an intracellular membrane. Tail-anchored proteins often, but not always, demonstrate a selective distribution to specific intracellular organelles. This membrane-specific distribution is required for the large number of targeting proteins that are tail-anchored, but may or may not be critical for the numerous tail-anchored pro-apoptotic and anti-apoptotic proteins of the Bcl-2 family. Recent work has begun to address the mechanism for targeting tail-anchored proteins to their resident membranes, but questions remain. What targeting signals determine each protein s intracellular location? Are there receptors for these signals and, if so, how do they function? What steps are required to integrate tail-anchored proteins into the phospholipid bilayers? In this Traffic interchange, we summarise what is known about tail-anchored proteins, and outline the areas that are currently under study.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66 - 71
Number of pages6
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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