Ghrelin octanoylation by ghrelin O-acyltransferase: Protein acylation impacting metabolic and neuroendocrine signalling

Tasha R. Davis, Mariah R. Pierce, Sadie X. Novak, James L. Hougland

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The acylated peptide hormone ghrelin impacts a wide range of physiological processes but is most well known for controlling hunger and metabolic regulation. Ghrelin requires a unique posttranslational modification, serine octanoylation, to bind and activate signalling through its cognate GHS-R1a receptor. Ghrelin acylation is catalysed by ghrelin O-acyltransferase (GOAT), a member of the membrane-bound O-acyltransferase (MBOAT) enzyme family. The ghrelin/GOAT/GHS-R1a system is defined by multiple unique aspects within both protein biochemistry and endocrinology. Ghrelin serves as the only substrate for GOAT within the human proteome and, among the multiple hormones involved in energy homeostasis and metabolism such as insulin and leptin, acts as the only known hormone in circulation that directly stimulates appetite and hunger signalling. Advances in GOAT enzymology, structural modelling and inhibitor development have revolutionized our understanding of this enzyme and offered new tools for investigating ghrelin signalling at the molecular and organismal levels. In this review, we briefly summarize the current state of knowledge regarding ghrelin signalling and ghrelin/GOAT enzymology, discuss the GOAT structural model in the context of recently reported MBOAT enzyme superfamily member structures, and highlight the growing complement of GOAT inhibitors that offer options for both ghrelin signalling studies and therapeutic applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number210080
JournalOpen Biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • GHS-R1a
  • ghrelin
  • ghrelin O-acyltransferase
  • membrane-bound O-acyltransferase
  • neuroendocrinology
  • protein acylation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Immunology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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