Chasing phosphohistidine, an elusive sibling in the phosphoamino acid family

Jung Min Kee, Tom W. Muir

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


This year (2012) marks the 50th anniversary of the discovery of protein histidine phosphorylation. Phosphorylation of histidine (pHis) is now widely recognized as being critical to signaling processes in prokaryotes and lower eukaryotes. However, the modification is also becoming more widely reported in mammalian cellular processes and implicated in certain human disease states such as cancer and inflammation. Nonetheless, much remains to be understood about the role and extent of the modification in mammalian cell biology. Studying the functional role of pHis in signaling, either in vitro or in vivo, has proven devilishly hard, largely due to the chemical instability of the modification. As a consequence, we are currently handicapped by a chronic lack of chemical and biochemical tools with which to study histidine phosphorylation. Here, we discuss the challenges associated with studying the chemical biology of pHis and review recent progress that offers some hope that long-awaited biochemical reagents for studying this elusive posttranslational modification (PTM) might soon be available.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-51
Number of pages8
JournalACS chemical biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 20 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Biochemistry


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