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Non-Canonical Amino Acids in Analyses of Protease Structure and Function

Goettig, Peter; Koch, Nikolaj G.; Budisa, Nediljko

All known organisms encode 20 canonical amino acids by base triplets in the genetic code. The cellular translational machinery produces proteins consisting mainly of these amino acids. Several hundred natural amino acids serve important functions in metabolism, as scaffold molecules, and in signal transduction. New side chains are generated mainly by post-translational modifications, while others have altered backbones, such as the β- or γ-amino acids, or they undergo stereochemical inversion, e.g., in the case of D-amino acids. In addition, the number of non-canonical amino acids has further increased by chemical syntheses. Since many of these non-canonical amino acids confer resistance to proteolytic degradation, they are potential protease inhibitors and tools for specificity profiling studies in substrate optimization and enzyme inhibition. Other applications include in vitro and in vivo studies of enzyme kinetics, molecular interactions and bioimaging, to name a few. Amino acids with bio-orthogonal labels are particularly attractive, enabling various cross-link and click reactions for structure-functional studies. Here, we cover the latest developments in protease research with non-canonical amino acids, which opens up a great potential, e.g., for novel prodrugs activated by proteases or for other pharmaceutical compounds, some of which have already reached the clinical trial stage.
Published in: International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 10.3390/ijms241814035, MDPI