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J Am Chem Soc. 2009 Apr 22;131(15):5495-505. doi: 10.1021/ja808286x.

Synthesis and structural characterization of sialic acid-glutamic acid hybrid foldamers as conformational surrogates of alpha-2,8-linked polysialic acid.

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Department of Chemistry, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, California 95616, USA.


Surface expression of alpha-(2,8)-linked polymers of sialic acid in adult tissues has been correlated with metastasis of several human cancers. One approach to chemotherapeutic intervention against the spread of these cancers involves the development of immunogenic molecules that elicit an antibody response against alpha-(2,8)-linked polysialic acids. Naturally occurring polysialic acids are not viable candidates because they are present during embryonic development and are recognized as self by the immune system. These natural polymers also have poor pharmacokinetic properties because they are readily degraded by neuraminidase enzymes. We have been interested in developing structural surrogates of polysialic acids in an effort to overcome these limitations. Reported herein are microwave-assisted solid-phase peptide syntheses and structural characterization studies of a series of alpha/delta hybrid peptides derived from Fmoc-Neu2en and Fmoc-Glu(OtBu)-OH. Conformational experiments including circular dichroism, NH/ND exchange, and ROESY in aqueous solution were performed to study the secondary structures of these hybrid foldamers. ROESY data were analyzed with the assistance of XPLOR-NIH that was modified to include parameter and topology files to accommodate unnatural amino acids and the delta amide linkages. The results indicate that stable secondary structure is dependent upon both the amino acid sequence and the configuration of Glu. The most stable foldamer was composed of a total of 6 residues beginning with L-Glu at the carboxy terminus and alternating Neu2en and L-Glu residues. In water, this foldamer adopts a right-handed helical conformation with 3.7 residues per turn, 7.4 A pitch, 5.8 A diameter, and a length of 18.5 A, which is stabilized by both classical C=O...H-N backbone interactions and by pyranose ring O and L-Glu HN H-bonding. These structural features orient the L-Glu carboxylates along the helical backbone with a periodicity that matches the carboxylate positions along the reported G2(+) left-handed helix of alpha-(2,8)-polysialic acid. However, the charge density of the foldamer is one-half that of the natural polymer. These findings provide a fundamental understanding of the factors that influence stable secondary structure in hybrid Neu2en/Glu systems, and the tools we have developed establish a viable platform for the rational design of alpha-(2,8)-polysialic acid surrogates.

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