Control of ditryptophan cross-linking: dihydrotryptophan as a tryptophan precursor in peptide synthesis

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In neat trifluoroacetic acid, tryptophan side chains cross-link to form a diastereomeric mixture of tryptophan dimers. Convergent oxidation with 2,3-dichloro-5,6-dicyano-1,4-benzoquinone (DDQ) converts tryptophan dimers to ditryptophan. Since cross-link formation is under thermodynamic control, there has been no simple way of controlling the regiochemistry of the cross-linking process when more than one tryptophan side chain is present. Here, we show that dihydrotryptophan (Dht) can be incorporated into peptides as a tryptophan precursor, which reforms tryptophan upon treatment with DDQ. Dihydrotryptophan was prepared as a mixture of γS and γR diastereomers and the indoline nitrogen was protected with a Cbz group. The resulting amino acid, Nα-BOC-Dht(Cbz)-OH, was then incorporated into peptides as a mixture of diastereomers. Dht was resistant to tryptophan cross-linking in neat trifluoroacetic acid and was converted back to tryptophan during convergent oxidation of tryptophan dimers. While Dht is useful for control of ditryptophan regiochemistry and as a potential tryptophan analog, it is not a general strategy for Trp protection since DDQ is unlikely to be compatible with easily oxidized amino acids such as cysteine.

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