Histidine phosphorylation is an important and ubiquitous post-translational modification. Histidine undergoes phosphorylation on either of the nitrogens in its imidazole side chain, giving rise to 1- and 3- phosphohistidine (pHis) isomers, each having a phosphoramidate linkage that is labile at high temperatures and low pH, in contrast with stable phosphomonoester protein modifications. While all organisms routinely use pHis as an enzyme intermediate, prokaryotes, lower eukaryotes and plants also use it for signal transduction. However, research to uncover additional roles for pHis in higher eukaryotes is still at a nascent stage. Since the discovery of pHis in 1962, progress in this field has been relatively slow, in part due to a lack of the tools and techniques necessary to study this labile modification. However, in the past ten years the development of phosphoproteomic techniques to detect phosphohistidine (pHis), and methods to synthesize stable pHis analogues, which enabled the development of anti-phosphohistidine (pHis) antibodies, have accelerated our understanding. Recent studies that employed anti-pHis antibodies and other advanced techniques have contributed to a rapid expansion in our knowledge of histidine phosphorylation. In this review, we examine the varied roles of pHis-containing proteins from a chemical and structural perspective, and present an overview of recent developments in pHis proteomics and antibody development.

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