Concise total synthesis of glucosepane

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Science  16 Oct 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6258, pp. 294-298
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac9655

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Getting a handle on a cross-linking motif

Although protein backbones consist exclusively of amino acids, various other molecules in the cell often get latched on afterward in a process termed posttranslational modification. In one such motif, called glucosepane, the side chains of lysine and arginine form a condensed cross-link through a reaction sequence with glucose. Formation of this cross-link is of interest in diabetes research. Draghici et al. now report a chemical synthesis of glucosepane outside the broader environment of a surrounding protein (see the Perspective by Boger). This synthesis should facilitate more precise characterization of the structure and function of the motif in vivo.

Science, this issue p. 294; see also p. 275


Glucosepane is a structurally complex protein posttranslational modification that is believed to exist in all living organisms. Research in humans suggests that glucosepane plays a critical role in the pathophysiology of both diabetes and human aging, yet comprehensive biological investigations of this metabolite have been hindered by a scarcity of chemically homogeneous material available for study. Here we report the total synthesis of glucosepane, enabled by the development of a one-pot method for preparation of the nonaromatic 4H-imidazole tautomer in the core. Our synthesis is concise (eight steps starting from commercial materials), convergent, high-yielding (12% overall), and enantioselective. We expect that these results will prove useful in the art and practice of heterocyclic chemistry and beneficial for the study of glucosepane and its role in human health and disease.

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