Selective and Efficient Cysteine Conjugation by Maleimides in the Presence of Phosphine Reductants

Henkel et al., Bioconjugate Chemistry (2016) - PMID: 27631603

Product(s) used in this publication:  Specialty Peptides


Sulfhydryl functions of thiol-containing amino acids are prime attachment sites for conjugation of labels, ligands, or drugs to proteinaceous compounds. Usually the thiol is offered a xenobiotic electrophilic moiety from the molecule to be attached such as a maleimido function. As sulfhydryls tend to oxidize into disulfides they must be reduced before conjugation. A popular thiol reduction reagent in biosciences is the substituted phosphine tris(2-carboxyethyl)phosphine (TCEP). Yet, phosphines are nucleophilic, too, and thus potentially compete with thiols for the electron-poor alkene moiety of maleimide resulting in complex product mixtures. To overcome this shortcoming we developed a method to eliminate excess reducing agent in the reaction mixture by selective oxidation of the phosphine with azidobenzoic acid before coupling. This results in a selective and efficient labeling of cysteines by maleimides.

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