Jacobsen M. T., Petersen M. E., Ye X., Galibert M., Lorimer G. H., Aucagne V. and Kay M. S.
Journal of the American Chemical Society (2016) 138 (36) 11775-11782 - doi : 10.1021/jacs.6b05719
Although native chemical ligation (NCL) and related chemoselective ligation approaches provide an elegant method to stitch together unprotected peptides, the handling and purification of insoluble and aggregation-prone peptides and assembly intermediates create a bottleneck to routinely preparing large proteins by completely synthetic means. In this work, we introduce a new general tool, Fmoc-Ddae-OH, N-Fmoc-1-(4,4-dimethyl-2,6-dioxocyclo-hexylidene)-3-[2-(2-aminoethoxy)ethoxy]-propan-1-ol, a heterobifunctional traceless linker for temporarily attaching highly solubilizing peptide sequences (“helping hands”) onto insoluble peptides. This tool is implemented in three simple and nearly quantitative steps : (i) on-resin incorporation of the linker at a Lys residue ε-amine, (ii) Fmoc-SPPS elongation of a desired solubilizing sequence, and (iii) in-solution removal of the solubilizing sequence using mild aqueous hydrazine to cleave the Ddae linker after NCL-based assembly. Successful introduction and removal of a Lys6 helping hand is first demonstrated in two model systems (Ebola virus C20 peptide and the 70-residue ribosomal protein L31). It is then applied to the challenging chemical synthesis of the 97-residue co-chaperonin GroES, which contains a highly insoluble C-terminal segment that is rescued by a helping hand. Importantly, the Ddae linker can be cleaved in one pot following NCL or desulfurization. The purity, structure, and chaperone activity of synthetic l-GroES were validated with respect to a recombinant control. Additionally, the helping hand enabled synthesis of d-GroES, which was inactive in a heterochiral mixture with recombinant GroEL, providing additional insight into chaperone specificity. Ultimately, this simple, robust, and easy-to-use tool is expected to be broadly applicable for the synthesis of challenging peptides and proteins.