The highly chemoselective reaction between unprotected peptides bearing an N-terminal Cys residue and a C-terminal thioester enables the total and semi-synthesis of complex polypeptides. Here we extend the utility of this native chemical ligation approach to non-cysteine containing peptides. Since alanine is a common amino acid in proteins, ligation at this residue would be of great utility. To achieve this goal, a specific alanine residue in the parent protein is replaced with cysteine to facilitate synthesis by native chemical ligation. Following ligation, selective desulfurization of the resulting unprotected polypeptide product with H(2)/metal reagents converts the cysteine residue to alanine. This approach, which provides a general method to prepare alanyl proteins from their cysteinyl forms, can be used to chemically synthesize a variety of polypeptides, as demonstrated by the total chemical syntheses of the cyclic antibiotic microcin J25, the 56-amino acid streptococcal protein G B1 domain, and a variant of the 110-amino acid ribonuclease, barnase.