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Methods Enzymol. 2009;462:25-44. doi: 10.1016/S0076-6879(09)62002-4.

Protein engineering with the traceless Staudinger ligation.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.


The engineering of proteins can illuminate their biological function and improve their performance in a variety of applications. Within the past decade, methods have been developed that facilitate the ability of chemists to manipulate proteins in a controlled manner. Here, we present the traceless Staudinger ligation as a strategy for the convergent chemical synthesis of proteins. This reaction unites a phosphinothioester and an azide to form an amide bond with no residual atoms. An important feature of this reaction is its ability to ligate peptides at noncysteine residues, thereby overcoming a limitation of alternative strategies. Attributes of the traceless Staudinger ligation are discussed, and an overall comparison of known reagents for effecting the reaction is presented. General methods are elaborated for the synthesis of the most efficacious phosphinothiol for mediating the traceless Staudinger ligation, as well as for the preparation of phosphinothioester and azide fragments and the ligation of peptides immobilized on a solid support. Together, this information facilitates the use of this emerging method to engineer proteins.

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