Genetically Encoding Fluorosulfate-l-tyrosine To React with Lysine, Histidine, and Tyrosine via SuFEx in Proteins in Vivo

J Am Chem Soc. 2018 Apr 18;140(15):4995-4999. doi: 10.1021/jacs.8b01087. Epub 2018 Apr 5.


Introducing new chemical reactivity into proteins in living cells would endow innovative covalent bonding ability to proteins for research and engineering in vivo. Latent bioreactive unnatural amino acids (Uaas) can be incorporated into proteins to react with target natural amino acid residues via proximity-enabled reactivity. To expand the diversity of proteins amenable to such reactivity in vivo, a chemical functionality that is biocompatible and able to react with multiple natural residues under physiological conditions is highly desirable. Here we report the genetic encoding of fluorosulfate-l-tyrosine (FSY), the first latent bioreactive Uaa that undergoes sulfur-fluoride exchange (SuFEx) on proteins in vivo. FSY was found nontoxic to Escherichia coli and mammalian cells; after being incorporated into proteins, it selectively reacted with proximal lysine, histidine, and tyrosine via SuFEx, generating covalent intraprotein bridge and interprotein cross-link of interacting proteins directly in living cells. The proximity-activatable reactivity, multitargeting ability, and excellent biocompatibility of FSY will be invaluable for covalent manipulation of proteins in vivo. Moreover, genetically encoded FSY hereby empowers general proteins with the next generation of click chemistry, SuFEx, which will afford broad utilities in chemical biology, drug discovery, and biotherapeutics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Escherichia coli Proteins / chemistry*
  • Fluorides / chemistry
  • Genetic Code
  • HEK293 Cells
  • HeLa Cells
  • Histidine / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Lysine / chemistry*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Sulfur / chemistry
  • Sulfuric Acids / chemistry*
  • Tyrosine / analogs & derivatives
  • Tyrosine / chemistry*
  • Tyrosine / genetics


  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Sulfuric Acids
  • Tyrosine
  • Histidine
  • Sulfur
  • Lysine
  • Fluorides