Polar dibenzocyclooctynes for selective labeling of extracellular glycoconjugates of living cells

Frédéric Friscourt, Petr A Ledin, Ngalle Eric Mbua, Heather R Flanagan-Steet, Margreet A Wolfert, Richard Steet, Geert-Jan Boons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Although strain-promoted alkyne-azide cycloadditions (SPAAC) have found wide utility in biological and material sciences, the low polarity and limited water solubility of commonly used cyclooctynes represent a serious shortcoming. To address this problem, an efficient synthetic route has been developed for highly polar sulfated dibenzocyclooctynylamides (S-DIBO) by a Friedel-Crafts alkylation of 1,2-bis(3-methoxyphenyl)ethylamides with trichlorocyclopropenium cation followed by a controlled hydrolysis of the resulting dichlorocyclopropenes to give bis(3-methoxyphenyl)cyclooctacyclopropenones, which were subjected to methoxy group removal of the phenols, O-sulfation, and photochemical unmasking of the cyclopropenone moiety. Accurate rate measurements of the reaction of benzyl azide with various dibenzylcyclooctyne derivatives demonstrated that aromatic substitution and the presence of the amide function had only a marginal impact on the rate constants. Biotinylated S-DIBO 8 was successfully used for labeling azido-containing glycoconjugates of living cells. Furthermore, it was found that the substitution pattern of the dibenzylcyclooctynes influences subcellular location, and in particular it has been shown that DIBO derivative 4 can enter cells, thereby labeling intra- and extracellular azido-modified glycoconjugates, whereas S-DIBO 8 cannot pass the cell membrane and therefore is ideally suited for selective labeling of cell surface molecules. The ability to selectively label cell surface molecules will yield unique opportunities for glycomic analysis and the study of glycoprotein trafficking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5381-9
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cycloparaffins
  • Fibroblasts
  • Glycoconjugates
  • Humans
  • Jurkat Cells
  • Kinetics
  • Molecular Structure
  • Staining and Labeling


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