Selective modification of biomolecules using radical mediated hydrothiolation chemistry
Georgiev, David Georgiev
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Intracellular protein-protein interactions (PPI’s) play a vital role in many biological processes. Although they are viewed as of high biological interest they prove difficult to explore as potential targets for drug discovery. Numerous studies have shown α- helical peptides “locked” in their respective bioactive structure can greatly increase their performance by increasing their target affinity, resistance to proteolysis as well as facilitating cellular uptake. A striking feature of literature to date is how few studies utilise different stapling techniques when developing inhibitors for PPI’s. Current methods generally exploit ruthenium catalysed ring closing metathesis (RCM) or copper catalysed alkyne/azide click (CuAAC) chemistry to generate geometrically constrained peptides. Even though these methods have shown great potential they both share a fundamental limitation as the chemistry can only be employed on small synthetic peptides and cannot be extended to larger proteins. Thiol-ene coupling (TEC) chemistry (Chapter 1) which is often described as a ‘click’ reaction due to its fast reaction rates, high yields, wide functional group tolerance and insensitivity to ambient oxygen and water has the potential to solve this challenge. Thiol-ene chemistry was investigated as an alternative stapling strategy by employing the naturally occurring amino acid L-cysteine (Cys) as a source of the thiyl radical and L-homoallylglycine (Hag), a non-natural amino acid shown to act as a methionine surrogate in protein synthesis to act as a source of an alkene functionality to form a potentially expressible thioether tether in Chapter 2. However, due to unsatisfactory results from the intramolecular thiol-ene cyclisation at the molar concentrations required for peptide or protein modification, and a promising new lead, the closely related thiol-yne reaction was investigated as an alternative in Chapter 3. Using a small library of peptides (14 mers) derived from α-Synuclein (αSyn), a protein mainly found in the presynaptic terminals in the brain and is believed to be key to the pathological progress of Parkinson’s disease, a successful macrocyclisation was achieved between the side chains of cysteine (Cys) and homopropargylglycine (Hpg). Although the vinyl-thioether tether did not confer any helical conformation on the stapled peptides, the results clearly demonstrate a potential route for the development of expressible staples. Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy in combination with site-directed spin labelling (SDSL) of biomolecules has become a powerful tool for studying the structure and conformational dynamics of biomolecules. Typically, proteins are modified in a site-specific manner by utilising the side chains of cysteine residues to form disulphide bonds with spin active compounds, however, this strategy has its limitations. In Chapter 3 thiol-ene chemistry was investigated as an alternative biorthogonal method to spin label proteins and peptides. The newly synthesised sulfhydryl bearing nitroxide spin label was found to degrade upon exposure to radical promoting conditions, however, an alternative strategy was explored using more classical thiol-Michael chemistry to spin label dehydroalanine (Dha) modified peptides giving the desired spin labelled complex.