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Chembiochem. 2018 Aug 6;19(15):1648-1652. doi: 10.1002/cbic.201800275. Epub 2018 Jun 28.

Coordination-Assisted Bioorthogonal Chemistry: Orthogonal Tetrazine Ligation with Vinylboronic Acid and a Strained Alkene.

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Department of Biomolecular Chemistry, Institute for Molecules and Materials, Radboud University, Heyendaalseweg 135, 6525 AJ, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Leiden Institute of Chemistry, Leiden University, Einsteinweg 55, 2333 CC, Leiden, The Netherlands.


Bioorthogonal chemistry can be used for the selective modification of biomolecules without interfering with any other functionality that might be present. Recent developments in the field include orthogonal bioorthogonal reactions to modify multiple biomolecules simultaneously. During our research, we observed that the reaction rates for the bioorthogonal inverse-electron-demand Diels-Alder (iEDDA) reactions between nonstrained vinylboronic acids (VBAs) and dipyridyl-s-tetrazines were exceptionally higher than those between VBAs and tetrazines bearing a methyl or phenyl substituent. As VBAs are mild Lewis acids, we hypothesised that coordination of the pyridyl nitrogen atom to the boronic acid promoted tetrazine ligation. Herein, we explore the molecular basis and scope of VBA-tetrazine ligation in more detail and benefit from its unique reactivity in the simultaneous orthogonal tetrazine labelling of two proteins modified with VBA and norbornene, a widely used strained alkene. We further show that the two orthogonal iEDDA reactions can be performed in living cells by labelling the proteasome by using a nonselective probe equipped with a VBA and a subunit-selective VBA bearing a norbornene moiety.


bioorthogonal chemistry; cycloaddition; protein modifications; tetrazine ligation; vinylboronic acids


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