A minimalist substrate for enzymatic peptide and protein conjugation

James W. Wollack, Julie M. Silverman, Christopher J. Petzold, Joseph D. Mougous, Mark D. Distefano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Recently a number of nonnatural prenyl groups containing alkynes and azides have been developed as handles to perform click chemistry on proteins and peptides ending in the sequence "CAAX", where C is a cysteine that becomes alkylated, A is an aliphatic amino acid and X is any amino acid. When such molecules are modified, a tag containing a prenyl analogue and the "CAAX box" sequence remains. Here we report the synthesis of an alkyne-containing substrate comprised of only nine nonhydrogen atoms. This substrate was synthesized in six steps from 3-methylbut-2-en-1-ol and has been enzymatically incorporated into both proteins and peptides by using protein farnesyltransferase. After prenylation the final three amino acids required for enzymatic recognition can be removed by using carboxypeptidase Y, leaving a single residue (the cysteine from the "CAAX box") and the prenyl analogue as the only modifications. We also demonstrate that this small tag minimizes the impact of the modification on the solubility of the targeted protein. Hence, this new approach should be useful for applications in which the presence of a large tag hinders the modified protein's solubility, reactivity, or utility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2934-2943
Number of pages10
Issue number18
StatePublished - 2009


  • Alkynes
  • Cysteine alkylation
  • Farnesyltransferases
  • Prenylated peptides
  • Protein modifications


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