Protein damage by reactive electrophiles: targets and consequences

Chem Res Toxicol. 2008 Jan;21(1):117-28. doi: 10.1021/tx700235t. Epub 2007 Dec 4.


It has been 60 years since the Millers first described the covalent binding of carcinogens to tissue proteins. Protein covalent binding was gradually overshadowed by the emergence of DNA adduct formation as the dominant paradigm in chemical carcinogenesis but re-emerged in the early 1970s as a critical mechanism of drug and chemical toxicity. Technology limitations hampered the characterization of protein adducts until the emergence of mass spectrometry-based proteomics in the late 1990s. The time since then has seen rapid progress in the characterization of the protein targets of electrophiles and the consequences of protein damage. Recent integration of novel affinity chemistries for electrophile probes, shotgun proteomics methods, and systems modeling tools has led to the identification of hundreds of protein targets of electrophiles in mammalian systems. The technology now exists to map the targets of damage to critical components of signaling pathways and metabolic networks and to understand mechanisms of damage at a systems level. The implementation of sensitive, specific analyses for protein adducts from both xenobiotic-derived and endogenous electrophiles offers a means to link protein damage to clinically relevant health effects of both chemical exposures and disease processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Humans
  • Immunochemistry
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proteins / drug effects
  • Proteomics
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Xenobiotics / toxicity


  • Proteins
  • Xenobiotics