Arginine adenosine-5′-diphosphoribosylation (ADP-ribosylation) is an enzyme-catalyzed, potentially reversible posttranslational modification, in which the ADP-ribose moiety is transferred from NAD+ to the guanidino moiety of arginine. At 540 Da, ADP-ribose has the size of approximately five amino acid residues. In contrast to arginine, which, at neutral pH, is positively charged, ADP-ribose carries two negatively charged phosphate moieties. Arginine ADP-ribosylation, thus, causes a notable change in size and chemical property at the ADP-ribosylation site of the target protein. Often, this causes steric interference of the interaction of the target protein with binding partners, e.g. toxin-catalyzed ADP-ribosylation of actin at R177 sterically blocks actin polymerization. In case of the nucleotide-gated P2X7 ion channel, ADP-ribosylation at R125 in the vicinity of the ligand-binding site causes channel gating. Arginine-specific ADP-ribosyltransferases (ARTs) carry a characteristic R-S-EXE motif that distinguishes these enzymes from structurally related enzymes which catalyze ADP-ribosylation of other amino acid side chains, DNA, or small molecules. Arginine-specific ADP-ribosylation can be inhibited by small molecule arginine analogues such as agmatine or meta-iodobenzylguanidine (MIBG), which themselves can serve as targets for arginine-specific ARTs. ADP-ribosylarginine specific hydrolases (ARHs) can restore target protein function by hydrolytic removal of the entire ADP-ribose moiety. In some cases, ADP-ribosylarginine is processed into secondary posttranslational modifications, e.g. phosphoribosylarginine or ornithine. This review summarizes current knowledge on arginine-specific ADP-ribosylation, focussing on the methods available for its detection, its biological consequences, and the enzymes responsible for this modification and its reversal, and discusses future perspectives for research in this field
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