Selective C-Terminal Conjugation of Protease-Derived Native Peptides for Proteomic Measurements

Langmuir. 2022 Aug 2;38(30):9119-9128. doi: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.2c00359. Epub 2022 Jul 20.


Bottom-up proteomic experiments often require selective conjugation or labeling of the N- and/or C-termini of peptides resulting from proteolytic digestion. For example, techniques based on surface fluorescence imaging are emerging as a promising route to high-throughput protein sequencing but require the generation of peptide surface arrays immobilized through single C-terminal point attachment while leaving the N-terminus free. While several robust approaches are available for selective N-terminal conjugation, it has proven to be much more challenging to implement methods for selective labeling or conjugation of the C-termini that can discriminate between the C-terminal carboxyl group and other carboxyl groups on aspartate and glutamate residues. Further, many approaches based on conjugation through amide bond formation require protection of the N-terminus to avoid unwanted cross-linking reactions. To overcome these challenges, herein, we describe a new strategy for single-point selective immobilization of peptides generated by protease digestion via the C-terminus. The method involves immobilization of peptides via lysine amino acids which are found naturally at the C-terminal end of cleaved peptides from digestions of certain serine endoproteinases, like LysC. This lysine and the N-terminus, the sole two primary amines in the peptide fragments, are chemically reacted with a custom phenyl isothiocyanate (EPITC) that contains an alkyne handle. Subsequent exposure of the double-modified peptides to acid selectively cleaves the N-terminal amino acid, while the modified C-terminus lysine remains unchanged. The alkyne-modified peptides with free N-termini can then be immobilized on an azide surface through standard click chemistry. Using this general approach, surface functionalization is demonstrated using a combination of X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), ellipsometry, and atomic force microscopy (AFM).

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alkynes
  • Lysine / chemistry
  • Peptide Hydrolases*
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Proteomics* / methods


  • Alkynes
  • Peptides
  • Peptide Hydrolases
  • Lysine