Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Ernest J. Petersson


The amino acid acridon-2-ylalanine (Acd) can be a valuable probe of protein dynamics either alone or as part of a Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) or photo-induced electron transfer (eT) probe pair. We have previously reported the genetic incorporation of Acd by an aminoacyl tRNA synthetase (RS). However, this RS, developed from a library of permissive RSs, also incorporates N-phenyl-amino-phenylalanine (Npf), a trace byproduct of one Acd synthetic route. We have performed negative selections in the presence of Npf and analyzed the selectivity of the resulting AcdRSs by in vivo protein expression and detailed kinetic analyses of the purified RSs. We find that selection conferred a ~50-fold increase in selectivity for Acd over Npf, eliminating incorporation of Npf contaminants, and allowing one to use a high yielding Acd synthetic route for improved overall expression of Acd-containing proteins. More generally, our report also provides a cautionary tale on the use of permissive RSs, as well as a strategy for improving selectivity for the target amino acid.

In spite of its utility for studying proteins by fluorescence spectroscopy, Acd can potentially be improved by making it longer wavelength or brighter. We reported the synthesis of Acd core derivatives and their photophysical characterization. We also performed ab initio calculations of the absorption and emission spectra of Acd derivatives, which agree well with experimental measurements. The amino acid aminoacridonylalanine (Aad) was synthesized in forms appropriate for genetic incorporation and peptide synthesis. We show that Aad is a superior FRET acceptor to Acd in a peptide cleavage assay, and that Aad can be activated by an aminoacyl tRNA synthetase for genetic incorporation. Together, these results show that we can use computation to design enhanced Acd derivatives which can be used in peptides and proteins.

Finally, the Aad synthesis has been improved and it will be further tested in vivo incorporations into proteins, and alkylated Aad core analogs show improved brightness making their use as amino acids promising.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."

Included in

Chemistry Commons