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Characterization of Reactions between Water-Soluble Trialkylphosphines and Thiol Alkylating Reagents: Implications for Protein-Conjugation Reactions

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journal contribution
posted on 07.09.2016, 00:00 by Terrence Kantner, Andrew G. Watts
Water-soluble trialkylphosphines such as tris­(carboxyethyl)­phosphine (TCEP) and trishydroxypropyl phosphine (THPP) are effective agents for reducing disulfide bonds in proteins and are increasingly becoming the reagents of choice for bioconjugation strategies that modify cysteine (thiol containing) amino acids. These reducing agents are often considered as being chemically compatible with Michael acceptors such as maleimides and, as such, are often not removed prior to performing protein conjugation reactions. Here, we demonstrate the rapid and irreversible reaction of both TCEP and THPP with derivatives of the commonly employed thiol alkylating groups, maleimide and vinyl sulfone. Mechanistic investigations revealed distinct differences between the reactions of TCEP and THPP with maleimide, leading to the production of either nonproductive ylenes or succidimidyl derivatives, respectively. Importantly, we also demonstrate the incorporation of nonproductive ylenes formed between maleimide and TCEP into the Pneumococcal capsular polysaccharide Pn6b following strategies employed toward the production of conjugate vaccines.