Practical protocols for stepwise solid-phase synthesis of cysteine-containing peptides

Y. M. Angell, J. Alsina, G. Barany, F. Albericio

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This study details a series of conditions that may be applied to ensure 'safe' incorporation of cysteine with minimal racemization during automated or manual solid-phase peptide synthesis. Earlier studies from our laboratories [Han et al. (1997) J. Org. Chem. 62, 4307-4312] showed that several common coupling methods, including those exploiting in situ activating agents such as N-[(dimethylamino)-1H-1,2,3-triazolo[4,5-b]pyridin-1-ylmethylene] -N-methylmethanaminium hexafluorophosphate N-oxide (HATU), N-[1H-benzotriazol-1-yl)-(dimethylamino)methylene]-N-methylmethanaminium hexafluorophosphate N-oxide (HBTU), and (benzotriazol-1-yl-N-oxy)tris(dimethylamino)phosphonium hexafluorophosphate (BOP) [all in the presence of N-methylmorpholine (NMM) or N,N-diisopropylethylamine (DIEA) as a tertiary amine base], give rise to unacceptable levels (i.e. 5-33%) of cysteine racemization. As demonstrated on the tripeptide model H-Gly-Cys-Phe-NH2, and on the nonapeptide dihydrooxytocin, the following methods are recommended: O-pentafluorophenyl (O-Pfp) ester in DMF; O-Pfp ester/1-hydroxybenzotriazole (HOBt) in DMF; N,N′-diisopropylcarbodiimide (DIPCDI)/HOBt in DMF; HBTU/HOBt/2,4,6-trimethylpyridine (TMP) in DMF (preactivation time 3.5-7.0 min in all of these cases); and HBTU/HOBt/TMP in CH2Cl2/DMF (1:1) with no preactivation. In fact, several of the aforementioned methods are now used routinely in our laboratory during the automated synthesis of analogs of the 58-residue protein bovine pancreatic trypsin inhibitor (BPTI). In addition, several highly hindered bases such as 2,6-dimethylpyridine (lutidine), 2,3,5,6-tetramethylpyridine (TEMP), octahydroacridine (OHA), and 2,6-di-tert-butyl-4-(dimethylamino)pyridine (DB[DMAP]) may be used in place of the usual DIEA or NMM to minimize cysteine racemization even with the in situ coupling protocols.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)292-299
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Peptide Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2002


  • Automated solid-phase peptide synthesis
  • Cysteine
  • Hindered bases
  • Oxytocin
  • Racemization


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