Structural elucidation of isocyanate-peptide adducts using tandem mass spectrometry

  • Justin M. Hettick
  • Tinashe B. Ruwona
  • Paul D. Siegel


Diisocyanates are highly reactive chemical compounds widely used in the manufacture of polyurethanes. Although diisocyanates have been identified as causative agents of allergic respiratory diseases, the specific mechanism by which these diseases occur is largely unknown. To better understand the chemical species produced when isocyanates are reacted with model peptides, tandem mass spectrometry was employed to unambiguously identify the binding site of four commercially-relevant isocyanates on model peptides. In each case, the isocyanates react preferentially with the N-terminus of the peptide. No evidence of side-chain/isocyanate adduct formation exclusive of the N-terminus was observed. However, significant intra-molecular diisocyanate crosslinking was observed between the N-terminal amine and a side-chain amine of arginine, when Arg was located within two residues of the N-terminus. Addition of multiple isocyanates to the peptide occurs via polymerization of the isocyanate at the N-terminus, rather than via addition of multiple isocyanate molecules to varied residues within the peptide. The direct observation of isocyanate binding to the N-terminus of peptides under these experimental conditions is in good agreement with previous studies on the relative reaction rate of isocyanate with amino acid functional groups.

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Copyright information

© American Society for Mass Spectrometry 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Justin M. Hettick
    • 1
  • Tinashe B. Ruwona
    • 1
  • Paul D. Siegel
    • 1
  1. 1.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and HealthHealth Effects Laboratory DivisionMorgantownUSA

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