Photoaffinity labeling and its application in structural biology

Biochemistry (Mosc). 2007 Jan;72(1):1-20. doi: 10.1134/s0006297907010014.


This review contains a brief consideration of some theoretical aspects of photoaffinity (photoreactive) labeling (PAL), and the most widely used photoreactive groups, such as arylazide, benzophenone, and 3-(trifluoromethyl)-3-phenyldiazirine, are characterized in comparison. Experimental methodology is described, including modern approaches of mass spectrometry for analysis of cross-linking products between the photoreactive probes and biomolecules. Examples of PAL application in diverse fields of structural biology during the last five-ten years are presented. Potential drug targets, transport processes, stereochemistry of interaction of G-protein-coupled receptors with ligands, as well as structural changes in nicotinic acetylcholine receptor are considered. Applications of photoaffinity ganglioside and phospholipid probes for studying biological membranes and of nucleotide probes in investigations of replicative and transcriptional complexes, as well as photoaffinity glycoconjugates for detecting carbohydrate-binding proteins are covered. In combination with modern techniques of instrumental analysis and computer-aided modeling, PAL remains the most important approach in studies on the organization of biological systems.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Azides / chemical synthesis
  • Azides / chemistry
  • Azirines / chemical synthesis
  • Azirines / chemistry
  • Benzophenones / chemical synthesis
  • Benzophenones / chemistry
  • Glycoconjugates / chemistry
  • Ligands
  • Lipids / chemistry
  • Membranes / chemistry
  • Membranes / metabolism
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Structure*
  • Nucleotides / chemistry
  • Photoaffinity Labels / chemical synthesis*
  • Photoaffinity Labels / chemistry*
  • Staining and Labeling / methods*


  • 3-trifluoromethyl-3-phenyldiazirine
  • Azides
  • Azirines
  • Benzophenones
  • Glycoconjugates
  • Ligands
  • Lipids
  • Nucleotides
  • Photoaffinity Labels
  • benzophenone