Triphenylphosphonium-Derived Protein Sulfenic Acid Trapping Agents: Synthesis, Reactivity, and Effect on Mitochondrial Function

Chem Res Toxicol. 2019 Mar 18;32(3):526-534. doi: 10.1021/acs.chemrestox.8b00385. Epub 2019 Mar 4.


Redox-mediated protein modifications control numerous processes in both normal and disease metabolism. Protein sulfenic acids, formed from the oxidation of protein cysteine residues, play a critical role in thiol-based redox signaling. The reactivity of protein sulfenic acids requires their identification through chemical trapping, and this paper describes the use of the triphenylphosphonium (TPP) ion to direct known sulfenic acid traps to the mitochondria, a verified source of cellular reactive oxygen species. Coupling of the TPP group with the 2,4-(dioxocyclohexyl)propoxy (DCP) unit and the bicyclo[6.1.0]nonyne (BCN) group produces two new probes, DCP-TPP and BCN-TPP. DCP-TPP and BCN-TPP react with C165A AhpC-SOH, a model protein sulfenic acid, to form the expected adducts with second-order rate constants of k = 1.1 M-1 s-1 and k = 5.99 M-1 s-1, respectively, as determined by electrospray ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry. The TPP group does not alter the rate of DCP-TPP reaction with protein sulfenic acid compared to dimedone but slows the rate of BCN-TPP reaction compared to a non-TPP-containing BCN-OH control by 4.6-fold. The hydrophobic TPP group may interact with the protein, preventing an optimal reaction orientation for BCN-TPP. Unlike BCN-OH, BCN-TPP does not react with the protein persulfide, C165A AhpC-SSH. Extracellular flux measurements using A549 cells show that DCP-TPP and BCN-TPP influence mitochondrial energetics, with BCN-TPP producing a drastic decrease in basal respiration, perhaps due to its faster reaction kinetics with sulfenylated proteins. Further control experiments with BCN-OH, TPP-COOH, and dimedone provide strong evidence for mitochondrial localization and accumulation of DCP-TPP and BCN-TPP. These results reveal the compatibility of the TPP group with reactive sulfenic acid probes as a mitochondrial director and support the use of the TPP group in the design of sulfenic acid traps.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • A549 Cells
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / drug effects*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Molecular Probes / chemistry
  • Molecular Structure
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / chemical synthesis*
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / chemistry
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / pharmacology*
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Sulfenic Acids / analysis*


  • Molecular Probes
  • Organophosphorus Compounds
  • Proteins
  • Sulfenic Acids