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Biopolymers. 2007;88(3):340-9.

Exploratory synthesis of peptide-alpha-thioester segments spanning the polypeptide sequence of the delta-opioid receptor, a G protein-coupled receptor.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


We have decided to use the delta-opioid receptor (372 residues) as a model system to develop methods for the total chemical synthesis of G protein-coupled receptors. The most important feature of this receptor from a chemical synthesis perspective is the wealth of cysteines spread throughout its sequence, which are required for native chemical ligation. A total of 13 cysteines are located in the the delta-opioid receptor polypetide chain in both loop and putative transmembrane (TM) regions. We envisioned a synthesis of the polypeptide that would make use of peptide-alpha-thioesters ranging from 37 to 63 residues in length. Here, we report data from an exploratory synthesis of such a set of peptide-alpha-thioesters. For all seven peptides, the crude material approximately 30 residues into the synthesis was sufficiently homogeneous to make isolation and purification straightforward. Extension of the peptides to between 40 and 50 residues in length generally produced a significant decrease in the quality of the crude products, although in most cases, we judged that high purity peptides could probably be isolated. By 60 residues, however, the crude peptide product mixtures are probably too heterogeneous to purify to homogeneity by reversed-phase HPLC. In general, delta-opioid receptor peptides with a single predicted TM domain were sufficiently soluble to handle postcleavage and to analyze by reversed-phase HPLC, whereas 1.5 TM domains rendered the peptides too hydrophobic to handle or analyze by standard protocols. Given the challenges of chain assembly, handling, and purification of these peptides, a synthetic strategy that uses approximately 12 or 13 shorter peptide segments of 20-40 residues each is probably a more feasible approach.

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