Flavins, cofactors of many enzymes, are often covalently linked to these enzymes; for instance, flavin adenine mononucleotide (FMN) can form a covalent bond through either its phosphate or isoalloxazine group. The prevailing view had long been that all types of covalent attachment of flavins occur as autocatalytic reactions; however, in 2013, the first flavin transferase was identified, which catalyzes phosphoester bond formation between FMN and Na+-translocating NADH:quinone oxidoreductase in certain bacteria. Later studies have indicated that this post-translational modification is widespread in prokaryotes and is even found in some eukaryotes. Flavin transferase can occur as a separate ∼40 kDa protein or as a domain within the target protein and recognizes a degenerate DgxtsAT/S motif in various target proteins. The purpose of this review was to summarize the progress already achieved by studies of the structure, mechanism, and specificity of flavin transferase and to encourage future research on this topic. Interestingly, the flavin transferase gene (apbE) is found in many bacteria that have no known target protein, suggesting the presence of yet unknown flavinylation targets.

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