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J Biol Chem. 1989 Apr 15;264(11):6164-70.

Succinimide formation from aspartyl and asparaginyl peptides as a model for the spontaneous degradation of proteins.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles 90024.


Nonenzymatic intramolecular reactions can result in the deamidation, isomerization, and racemization of protein and peptide asparaginyl and aspartyl residues via succinimide intermediates. To understand the sequence dependence of these reactions, we measured the rate of succinimide formation in a series of synthetic peptides at pH 7.4. These peptides (Val-Tyr-Pro-X-Y-Ala) contained an internal aspartyl, asparaginyl, aspartyl beta-methyl ester, or aspartyl alpha-methyl ester residue (X) followed by a glycyl, seryl, or alanyl residue (Y). The rates of succinimide formation of the asparaginyl peptides were found to be 13.1-35.6 times faster than those of the aspartyl peptides. The rates of succinimide formation for the glycyl peptides were 6.5-17.6 times faster than those of the alanyl peptides, while the rates for the seryl peptides were 1.6-4.5 times faster than those of the alanyl peptides. The overall 232-fold range in these reaction rates for aspartyl and asparaginyl residues suggests that sequence can be an important determinant in their stability in flexible peptides. In proteins, there may be a much larger range in the rates of succinimide formation because specific conformations may greatly enhance or inhibit this reaction.

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