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Issue 18, 2013
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The role of imidazole in peptide cyclization by transesterification: parallels to the catalytic triads of serine proteases

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Abstract

The improved bioavailability, stability and selectivity of cyclic peptides over their linear counterparts make them attractive structures in the design and discovery of novel therapeutics. In our previous work, we developed an imidazole-promoted preparation of cyclic depsipeptides in which we observed that increasing the concentration of imidazole resulted in the concomitant increase in the yield of cyclic product and reduction in dimerization, but also resulted in the generation of an acyl-substituted side product. In this work, we used transition state analysis to explore the mechanism of the imidazole-catalyzed esterification of one such peptide, Ac-SAFYG-SCH2ϕ, and determined the acyl substitution product to be an intermediate in a competing reaction pathway involving acyl substitution of the thioester by imidazole. Our findings indicate that imidazole plays an essential role in this side-chain to C-terminal coupling, and by extension, in transesterifications in general, through a concerted mechanism wherein imidazole deprotonates the nucleophile as the nucleophile attacks the carbonyl. The system under study is identical to the histidine-serine portion of the catalytic triads in serine proteases and it is likely that these enzymes employ the same concerted mechanism in the first step of peptide cleavage. Additionally, relatively high concentrations of imidazole must be used to effectively catalyze reactions in aprotic solvents since the overall reaction involves imidazole acting both as an acid and as a base, existing in solution as an equilibrium distribution between the neutral form and its conjugate acid.

Graphical abstract: The role of imidazole in peptide cyclization by transesterification: parallels to the catalytic triads of serine proteases

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Publication details

The article was received on 20 Dec 2012, accepted on 09 Mar 2013 and first published on 12 Mar 2013


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C3OB27464K
Citation: Org. Biomol. Chem., 2013,11, 2979-2987
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    The role of imidazole in peptide cyclization by transesterification: parallels to the catalytic triads of serine proteases

    K. G. Byler, Y. Li, R. A. Houghten and K. Martinez-Mayorga, Org. Biomol. Chem., 2013, 11, 2979
    DOI: 10.1039/C3OB27464K

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