Synthesis and application of novel probes for the detection of cysteine sulphenic acids

  • Shibani Ratnayake

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Cysteine is a thiol containing amino acid that readily undergoes oxidation by reactive oxygen species (ROS) to form sulphenic (R-SOH) sulphinic (RSO2H) and sulphonic (RSO3H) acids. Thiol modifications of cysteine have been implicated as modulators of cellular processes and represent significant biological modifications that occur during oxidative stress and cell signalling. However, the different oxidation states are difficult to monitor in a physiological setting due to the limited availability of experimental tools. Therefore it is of interest to synthesise and use a chemical probe that selectively recognises the reversible oxidation state of cysteine sulphenic acid to understand more about oxidative signalling. The aim of this thesis was to investigate a synthetic approach for novel fluorescent probe synthesis, for the specific detection of cysteine sulphenic acids by fluorescence spectroscopy and confocal microscopy. N-[2-(Anthracen-2-ylamino)-2-oxoethyl]-3,5-dioxocyclohexanecarboxamide was synthesised in a multistep synthesis and characterised by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. The optimisation of conditions needed for sulphenic acid formation in a purified protein using human serum albumin (HSA) and the commercially available biotin tagged probe 3-(2,4-dioxocyclohexyl)propyl-5-((3aR,6S,6aS)-hexahydro-2-oxo-1H-thieno[3,4-d]imidazol-6-yl)pentanoate (DCP-Bio1) were identified. This approach was extended to detect sulphenic acids in Jurkat T cells and CD4+ T cells pre- and post-stimulus. Buthionine sulfoximine (BSO) was used to manipulate the endogenous antioxidant glutathione (GSH) in human CD4+ T cells. Then the surface protein thiol levels and sulphenic acid formation was examined. T cells were also activated by the lectin phytohaemagglutinin-L (PHA-L) and formation of sulphenic acid was investigated using SDS-PAGE, western blotting and confocal microscopy. Resting Jurkat cells have two prominent protein bands that have sulphenic acid modifications whereas resting CD4+ T cells have an additional band present. When cells were treated with BSO the number of bands increased whereas activation reduced the number of proteins that were modified. The identities of the protein bands containing sulphenic acids were explored by mass spectrometry. Cysteine oxidation was observed in redox, metabolic and cytoskeletal proteins.
In summary, a novel fluorescent probe for detection of cysteine sulphenic acids has been synthesised alongside a model system that introduces cysteine sulphenic acid in primary T cells. This probe has potential application in the subcellular localisation of cysteine oxidation during T cell signalling.
Date of Award17 Sept 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aston University
SupervisorEric Lattmann (Supervisor) & Helen R Griffiths (Supervisor)


  • sulphenic acid
  • HSA
  • CD4+T cells
  • DCP-Biol
  • BSO

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