On the Specific Cleavage of Cysteine Containing Peptides and Proteins

  • Ch. Ebert
  • G. Ebert
  • G. Rossmeissl
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 86)


Addition of cysteine to the double bonds of polydehydroalanine and copolymers of dehydroalanine (DHA) and methylcysteine, alanine, leucine or γ- methyl-L-glutamate is accompanied by increased solubility and decreased molecular weight. This result is due to a peptide bond cleavage caused by formation of a thiazolidine as a consequence of nucleophilic attack by the sulfur atom on the preceding C=0 group and subsequent splitting of the peptide bond by nucleophilic attack of an OH ion. This mechanism is predominant in alkaline media; in acid another mechanism is favoured; carbonyl-oxygen attacks the carbonyl-C-atom of the cysteine residue, forming a second ring system. Addition of one water molecule then yields two peptide fragments, one of them a terminal cysteine residue. Both mechanisms could be confirmed in the case of γ-L-glutamyl-dehydroalanyl-glycine by adding cysteine. Furthermore, it could be shown that SH-glutathione is decomposed at elevated temperatures according to the two mechanisms mentioned. This SH-induced pepetide bond cleavage can be used for selective peptide chain splitting of cysteine-containing polypeptides and proteins under relatively mild conditions.


Sulfur Atom Alkaline Medium Peptide Bond Nucleophilic Attack Methyl Iodide 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ch. Ebert
    • 1
  • G. Ebert
    • 1
  • G. Rossmeissl
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of PolymersUniversity of Marburg/LMarburg/LWest Germany

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