We have previously reported that N-terminal α-ketoamide peptides can be formed through 4-oxo-2(E)-nonenal (ONE)-derived oxidative decarboxylation of aspartic acid (Asp), which converts angiotensin (Ang) II (DRVYIHPF) to pyruvamide-Ang II (Ang P, CH3COCONH-RVYIHPF). The pyruvamide group significantly inhibits Ang P binding to the Ang II type 1 receptor, which mediates the major biological effects of Ang II. In the present study, we found that ONE can also introduce an α-ketoamide moiety at the N-terminus of peptides containing N-terminal residues other than Asp. Subsequent investigation of alternative biosynthetic pathways for N-terminal α-ketoamide peptides revealed that hydroxyl radical-mediated formation is a much more efficient route. The proposed mechanism involves initial abstraction of the N-terminal α-hydrogen and hydrolysis of the ketimine intermediate. The resulting N-terminal α-ketoamide is then converted to the d- and l-amino acids by nonenzymatic transamination in the presence of pyridoxamine (PM). The formation of the epimeric N-terminus depended on the incubation time and the concentration of PM, and increased further upon the addition of Cu(II) ions. A conversion of approximately 60% after three days of incubation was observed for Ang P. We propose that the reaction intermediate contains a prochiral α-carbon and is stabilized by the chelate effect of Cu(II) ions. The ONE- and hydroxyl radical-derived formation of N-terminal α-ketoamide and its transamination in the presence of PM were also observed in amyloid β 1-11 (DAEFRHDSGYE), where the N-terminal Asp was converted to epimeric alanine. This suggests that these N-terminal modifications could occur in vivo and modulate the biological functions of peptides and proteins.
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