Prevention of aspartimide formation during peptide synthesis using cyanosulfurylides as carboxylic acid-protecting groups

Nat Commun. 2020 Feb 20;11(1):982. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-14755-6.


Although peptide chemistry has made great progress, the frequent occurrence of aspartimide formation during peptide synthesis remains a formidable challenge. Aspartimide formation leads to low yields in addition to costly purification or even inaccessible peptide sequences. Here, we report an alternative approach to address this longstanding challenge of peptide synthesis by utilizing cyanosulfurylides to mask carboxylic acids by a stable C-C bond. These functional groups-formally zwitterionic species-are exceptionally stable to all common manipulations and impart improved solubility during synthesis. Deprotection is readily and rapidly achieved under aqueous conditions with electrophilic halogenating agents via a highly selective C-C bond cleavage reaction. This protecting group is employed for the synthesis of a range of peptides and proteins including teduglutide, ubiquitin, and the low-density lipoprotein class A. This protecting group strategy has the potential to overcome one of the most difficult aspects of modern peptide chemistry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aspartic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Aspartic Acid / chemical synthesis
  • Aspartic Acid / chemistry
  • Carboxylic Acids / chemistry
  • Cyanides / chemistry
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / chemical synthesis
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / chemistry
  • Peptides / chemical synthesis*
  • Peptides / chemistry*
  • Protein Folding
  • Solid-Phase Synthesis Techniques / methods*
  • Ubiquitin / chemistry


  • Carboxylic Acids
  • Cyanides
  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • Peptides
  • Ubiquitin
  • Aspartic Acid
  • aspartimide
  • teduglutide