The synthetic modification of proteins plays an important role in chemical biology and biomaterials science. These fields provide a constant need for chemical tools that can introduce new functionality in specific locations on protein surfaces. In this work, an oxidative strategy is demonstrated for the efficient modification of N-terminal residues on peptides and N-terminal proline residues on proteins. The strategy uses o-aminophenols or o-catechols that are oxidized to active coupling species in situ using potassium ferricyanide. Peptide screening results have revealed that many N-terminal amino acids can participate in this reaction, and that proline residues are particularly reactive. When applied to protein substrates, the reaction shows a stronger requirement for the proline group. Key advantages of the reaction include its fast second-order kinetics and ability to achieve site-selective modification in a single step using low concentrations of reagent. Although free cysteines are also modified by the coupling reaction, they can be protected through disulfide formation and then liberated after N-terminal coupling is complete. This allows access to doubly functionalized bioconjugates that can be difficult to access using other methods.
Thrombosis is the cause of many cardiovascular syndromes and is a significant contributor to life-threatening diseases, such as myocardial infarction and stroke. Thrombus targeted imaging agents have the capability to provide molecular information about pathological clots, potentially improving detection, risk stratification, and therapy of thrombosis-related diseases. Nanocarriers are a promising platform for the development of molecular imaging agents as they can be modified to have external targeting ligands and internal functional cargo. In this work, we report the synthesis and use of chemically functionalized bacteriophage MS2 capsids as biomolecule-based nanoparticles for fibrin imaging. The capsids were modified using an oxidative coupling reaction, conjugating ?90 copies of a fibrin targeting peptide to the exterior of each protein shell. The ability of the multivalent, targeted capsids to bind fibrin was first demonstrated by determining the impact on thrombin-mediated clot formation. The modified capsids out-performed the free peptides and were shown to inhibit clot formation at effective concentrations over ten-fold lower than the monomeric peptide alone. The installation of near-infrared fluorophores on the interior surface of the capsids enabled optical detection of binding to fibrin clots. The targeted capsids bound to fibrin, exhibiting higher signal-to-background than control, non-targeted MS2-based nanoagents. The in vitro assessment of the capsids suggests that fibrin-targeted MS2 capsids could be used as delivery agents to thrombi for diagnostic or therapeutic applications.
Using a small-molecule-based screen, ferricyanide was identified as a mild and efficient oxidant for the coupling of anilines and o-aminophenols on protein substrates. This reaction is compatible with thiols and 1,2-diols, allowing its use in the creation of complex bioconjugates for use in biotechnology and materials applications.
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