Biomolecular imaging can reveal a great deal of information about the inner workings of cells and one of the most attractive targets for imaging are glycans sugars that are ubiquitous to living organisms and abundant on cell surfaces. Imaging a glycan requires that it be tagged or labeled. One of the best techniques for doing this is a technique called click chemistry. The original version of click chemistry could only be used on cells in vitro, not in living organisms, because the technique involved catalysis with copper, which is toxic at high micromolar concentrations. A copper-free version of click chemistry that can safely be used in living organisms is available, but it is not always optimal in terms of reaction kinetics and target specificity. Now, a variation of click chemistry has been introduced that retains the copper catalyst of the original reaction - along with its speed and specificity but is safe for cells in vivo.
Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), in collaboration with researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in New York, have found a way to make copper-catalyzed click chemistry biocompatible. By adding a ligand that minimizes the toxicity of copper but still allows it to catalyze the click chemistry reaction, the researchers can safely use their reaction in living organisms. Compared to the copper-free click chemistry reaction, which can take up to an hour, the ligand-accelerated copper-catalyzed click chemistry reaction can achieve effective labeling within 3-5 minutes. The presence of the copper catalyst also enables this new formulation of click chemistry to be more target-specific with fewer background side reactions.
"The discovery of this new accelerating ligand for copper-catalyzed click chemistry should provide an effective complimentary tool to copper-free click chemistry," says Yi Liu, a chemist with Berkeley Lab's Molecular Foundry and
|Contact: Lynn Yarris|
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory