Paul J. O’Brien, Sina Elahipanah, Dmitry Rogozhnikov, Muhammad N. Yousaf
The development of methods for conjugating a range of molecules to primary amine functional groups has revolutionized the fields of chemistry, biology, and material science. The primary amine is a key functional group and one of the most important nucleophiles and bases used in all of synthetic chemistry. Therefore, tremendous interest in the synthesis of molecules containing primary amines and strategies to devise chemical reactions to react with primary amines has been at the core of chemical research. In particular, primary amines are a ubiquitous functional group found in biological systems as free amino acids, as key side chain lysines in proteins, and in signaling molecules and metabolites and are also present in many natural product classes. Due to its abundance, the primary amine is the most convenient functional group handle in molecules for ligation to other molecules for a broad range of applications that impact all scientific fields. Because of the primary amine’s central importance in synthetic chemistry, acid–base chemistry, redox chemistry, and biology, many methods have been developed to efficiently react with primary amines, including activated carboxylic acids, isothiocyanates, Michael addition type systems, and reaction with ketones or aldehydes followed by in situ reductive amination. Herein, we introduce a new traceless, high-yield, fast click-chemistry method based on the rapid and efficient trapping of amine groups via a functionalized dialdehyde group. The click reaction occurs in mild conditions in organic solvents or aqueous media and proceeds in high yield, and the starting dialdehyde reagent and resulting dialdehyde click conjugates are stable. Moreover, no catalyst or dialdehyde-activating group is required, and the only byproduct is water. The initial dialdehyde and the resulting conjugate are both straightforward to characterize, and the reaction proceeds with high atom economy. To demonstrate the broad scope of this new click-conjugation strategy, we designed a straightforward scheme to synthesize a suite of dialdehyde reagents. The dialdehyde molecules were used for applications in cell-surface engineering and for tailoring surfaces for material science applications. We anticipate the broad utility of the general dialdehyde click chemistry to primary amines in all areas of chemical research, ranging from polymers and bioconjugation to material science and nanoscience.