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The methylglyoxal-derived hydroimidazolones (MG-Hs) comprise the most prevalent class of non-enzymatic, post-translational modifications of protein arginine residues found in nature. These adducts form spontaneously in the human body, and are also present at high levels in the human diet. Despite numerous lines of evidence suggesting that MG-H-arginine adducts play critical roles in both healthy and disease physiology in humans, detailed studies of these molecules have been hindered by a lack of general synthetic strategies for their preparation in chemically homogeneous form, and on scales sufficient to enable detailed biochemical and cellular investigations. To address this limitation, we have developed efficient, multigram-scale syntheses of all MG-H-amino acid building blocks, suitably protected for solid-phase peptide synthesis, in 2-3 steps starting from inexpensive, readily available starting materials. Thus, MG-H derivatives were readily incorporated into oligopeptides site-specifically using standard solid-phase peptide synthesis. Access to synthetic MG-H-peptide adducts has enabled detailed investigations, which have revealed a series of novel and unexpected findings. First, one of the three MG-H isomers, MG-H3, was found to possess potent, pH-dependent antioxidant properties in biochemical and cellular assays intended to replicate redox processes that occur in vivo. Computational and mechanistic studies suggest that MG-H3-containing constructs are capable of participating in mechanistically distinct H-atom-transfer and single-electron-transfer oxidation processes. Notably, the product of MG-H3 oxidation was unexpectedly observed to disassemble into the fully unmodified arginine residue and pyruvate in aqueous solution. We believe these observations provide insight into the role(s) of MG-H-protein adducts in human physiology, and expect the synthetic reagents reported herein to enable investigations into non-enzymatic protein regulation at an unprecedented level of detail. © 2012 American Chemical Society.

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Journal of the American Chemical Society

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