During the course of developing a synthetic route for the cancer protein NY-ESO-1 using native chemical ligation, a number of the required thioester polypeptide fragments were unable to be synthesized effectively using Boc solid phase peptide synthesis. Modification of the SPPS protocols to include an arginine tag at the C terminus linked via the thioester resulted in a better purity profile and enhanced solubility, facilitating purification by HPLC. During preparation of another reactive partner for ligation that contained an internal Cys(Acm) residue by Fmoc SPPS, extensive loss of the Acm group occurred during cleavage from the resin while substitution with Cys(tBu) resulted in no loss of protecting group. It was shown that native chemical ligation of N-terminal cysteine peptide 155-180 containing the Cys(tBu) residue with thioester 140-154 was slow, incomplete and led to extensive HPLC column fouling. Subsequent incorporation of a C-terminal arginine tag into the N-terminal NY-ESO-1 155-180 fragment joined by a base labile 4-hydroxymethylbenzoic acid (HMBA) linker facilitated rapid quantitative ligation. The HMBA linker was demonstrated to be stable to the conditions required for native chemical ligation, subsequent transformations and final purification. Importantly it was effectively removed at pH=10.
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