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Open Access Research article

Structure-Function Analysis of Diacylglycerol Acyltransferase Sequences from 70 Organisms

Heping Cao

Author Affiliations

Commodity Utilization Research Unit, Southern Regional Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1100 Robert E. Lee Blvd., New Orleans, Louisiana 70124, USA

BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:249  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-249

Published: 21 July 2011



Diacylglycerol acyltransferase families (DGATs) catalyze the final and rate-limiting step of triacylglycerol (TAG) biosynthesis in eukaryotic organisms. Understanding the roles of DGATs will help to create transgenic plants with value-added properties and provide clues for therapeutic intervention for obesity and related diseases. The objective of this analysis was to identify conserved sequence motifs and amino acid residues for better understanding of the structure-function relationship of these important enzymes.


117 DGAT sequences from 70 organisms including plants, animals, fungi and human are obtained from database search using tung tree DGATs. Phylogenetic analysis separates these proteins into DGAT1 and DGAT2 subfamilies. These DGATs are integral membrane proteins with more than 40% of the total amino acid residues being hydrophobic. They have similar properties and amino acid composition except that DGAT1s are approximately 20 kDa larger than DGAT2s. DGAT1s and DGAT2s have 41 and 16 completely conserved amino acid residues, respectively, although only two of them are shared by all DGATs. These residues are distributed in 7 and 6 sequence blocks for DGAT1s and DGAT2s, respectively, and located at the carboxyl termini, suggesting the location of the catalytic domains. These conserved sequence blocks do not contain the putative neutral lipid-binding domain, mitochondrial targeting signal, or ER retrieval motif. The importance of conserved residues has been demonstrated by site-directed and natural mutants.


This study has identified conserved sequence motifs and amino acid residues in all 117 DGATs and the two subfamilies. None of the completely conserved residues in DGAT1s and DGAT2s is present in recently reported isoforms in the multiple sequences alignment, raising an important question how proteins with completely different amino acid sequences could perform the same biochemical reaction. The sequence analysis should facilitate studying the structure-function relationship of DGATs with the ultimate goal to identify critical amino acid residues for engineering superb enzymes in metabolic engineering and selecting enzyme inhibitors in therapeutic application for obesity and related diseases.