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Site-Specific Protein Transamination Using N‑Methylpyridinium-4-carboxaldehyde

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The controlled attachment of synthetic groups to proteins is important for a number of fields, including therapeutics, where antibody-drug conjugates are an emerging area of biologic medicines. We have previously reported a site-specific protein modification method using a transamination reaction that chemoselectively oxidizes the N-terminal amine of a polypeptide chain to a ketone or an aldehyde group. The newly introduced carbonyl can be used for conjugation to a synthetic group in one location through the formation of an oxime or a hydrazone linkage. To expand the scope of this reaction, we have used a combinatorial peptide library screening platform as a method to explore new transamination reagents while simultaneously identifying their optimal N-terminal sequences. N-Methylpyridinium-4-carboxaldehyde benzenesulfonate salt (Rapoport's salt, RS) was identified as a highly effective transamination reagent when paired with glutamate-terminal peptides and proteins. This finding establishes RS as a transamination reagent that is particularly well suited for antibody modification. Using a known therapeutic antibody, herceptin, it was demonstrated that RS can be used to modify the heavy chains of the wild-type antibody or to modify both the heavy and the light chains after N-terminal sequence mutation to add additional glutamate residues.

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