Site-specific protein modifications through pyrroline-carboxy-lysine residues

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Jun 28;108(26):10437-42. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1105197108. Epub 2011 Jun 13.


Pyrroline-carboxy-lysine (Pcl) is a demethylated form of pyrrolysine that is generated by the pyrrolysine biosynthetic enzymes when the growth media is supplemented with D-ornithine. Pcl is readily incorporated by the unmodified pyrrolysyl-tRNA/tRNA synthetase pair into proteins expressed in Escherichia coli and in mammalian cells. Here, we describe a broadly applicable conjugation chemistry that is specific for Pcl and orthogonal to all other reactive groups on proteins. The reaction of Pcl with 2-amino-benzaldehyde or 2-amino-acetophenone reagents proceeds to near completion at neutral pH with high efficiency. We illustrate the versatility of the chemistry by conjugating Pcl proteins with poly(ethylene glycol)s, peptides, oligosaccharides, oligonucleotides, fluorescence, and biotin labels and other small molecules. Because Pcl is genetically encoded by TAG codons, this conjugation chemistry enables enhancements of the pharmacology and functionality of proteins through site-specific conjugation.

MeSH terms

  • Culture Media
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Lysine / chemistry*
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Biomolecular
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Pyrroles / chemistry*


  • Culture Media
  • Proteins
  • Pyrroles
  • pyrroline
  • Lysine