Palmitoylation, the attachment of palmitate and other fatty acids on to cysteine residues, is a common post-translational modification of both integral and peripheral membrane proteins. Dynamic palmitoylation controls the intracellular distribution of peripheral membrane proteins by regulating membrane–cytosol exchange and/or by modifying the flux of the proteins through vesicular transport systems.
The SNARE (soluble N -ethylmaleimide-sensitive fusion protein-attachment protein receptor) protein SNAP-25 (25 kDa synaptosome-associated protein) is essential for regulated exocytosis in neuronal and neuroendocrine cells. Whereas the majority of SNARE proteins contain transmembrane domains, SNAP-25 is instead anchored to membranes by the palmitoylation of a central cysteine-rich region. In this review, we discuss the mechanisms of SNAP-25 palmitoylation and how this modification regulates the intracellular trafficking and exocytotic function of this essential protein.