Cyclic Tetrapeptides from Nature and Design: A Review of Synthetic Methodologies, Structure, and Function

Chem Rev. 2019 Sep 11;119(17):10318-10359. doi: 10.1021/acs.chemrev.8b00737. Epub 2019 Aug 16.


Small cyclic peptides possess a wide range of biological properties and unique structures that make them attractive to scientists working in a range of areas from medicinal to materials chemistry. However, cyclic tetrapeptides (CTPs), which are important members of this family, are notoriously difficult to synthesize. Various synthetic methodologies have been developed that enable access to natural product CTPs and their rationally designed synthetic analogues having novel molecular structures. These methodologies include the use of reversible protecting groups such as pseudoprolines that restrict conformational freedom, ring contraction strategies, on-resin cyclization approaches, and optimization of coupling reagents and reaction conditions such as temperature and dilution factors. Several fundamental studies have documented the impacts of amino acid configurations, N-alkylation, and steric bulk on both synthetic success and ensuing conformations. Carefully executed retrosynthetic ring dissection and the unique structural features of the linear precursor sequences that result from the ring dissection are crucial for the success of the cyclization step. Other factors that influence the outcome of the cyclization step include reaction temperature, solvent, reagents used as well as dilution levels. The purpose of this review is to highlight the current state of affairs on naturally occurring and rationally designed cyclic tetrapeptides, including strategies investigated for their syntheses in the literature, the conformations adopted by these molecules, and specific examples of their function. Using selected examples from the literature, an in-depth discussion of the synthetic techniques and reaction parameters applied for the successful syntheses of 12-, 13-, and 14-membered natural product CTPs and their novel analogues are presented, with particular focus on the cyclization step. Selected examples of the three-dimensional structures of cyclic tetrapeptides studied by NMR, and X-ray crystallography are also included.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Products / chemical synthesis
  • Chemistry Techniques, Synthetic / methods
  • Cyclization
  • Oligopeptides / chemical synthesis*
  • Peptides, Cyclic / chemical synthesis*


  • Biological Products
  • Oligopeptides
  • Peptides, Cyclic