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Mol Biosyst. 2008 Jun;4(6):521-31. doi: 10.1039/b719986d. Epub 2008 Mar 14.

A chemical approach for detecting sulfenic acid-modified proteins in living cells.

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Life Sciences Institute, University of Michigan, 210 Washtenaw Avenue, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-2216, USA.


Oxidation of the thiol functional group in cysteine (Cys-SH) to sulfenic (Cys-SOH), sulfinic (Cys-SO2H) and sulfonic acids (Cys-SO3H) is emerging as an important post-translational modification that can activate or deactivate the function of many proteins. Changes in thiol oxidation state have been implicated in a wide variety of cellular processes and correlate with disease states but are difficult to monitor in a physiological setting because of a lack of experimental tools. Here, we describe a method that enables live cell labeling of sulfenic acid-modified proteins. For this approach, we have synthesized the probe DAz-1, which is chemically selective for sulfenic acids and cell permeable. In addition, DAz-1 contains an azide chemical handle that can be selectively detected with phosphine reagents via the Staudinger ligation for identification, enrichment and visualization of modified proteins. Through a combination of biochemical, mass spectrometry and immunoblot approaches we characterize the reactivity of DAz-1 and highlight its utility for detecting protein sulfenic acids directly in mammalian cells. This novel method to isolate and identify sulfenic acid-modified proteins should be of widespread utility for elucidating signaling pathways and regulatory mechanisms that involve oxidation of cysteine residues.

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