Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy



Advisor's Name

Watson J. Lees

Advisor's Title

Committee Chair

Advisor's Name

Jose Almirall

Advisor's Name

John Landrum

Advisor's Name

Roberto Panepucci

Advisor's Name

Stanislaw F. Wnuk


aromatic thiols, aromatic dithiols, protein folding, disulfide containing proteins

Date of Defense



Most pharmaceutically relevant proteins and many extracellular proteins contain disulfide bonds. Formation of the correct disulfide bonds is essential for stability in almost all cases. Disulfide containing proteins can be rapidly and inexpensively overexpressed in bacteria. However, the overexpressed proteins usually form aggregates inside the bacteria, called inclusion bodies, which contains inactive and non-native protein. To obtain native protein, inclusion bodies need to be isolated and resolubilized, and then the resulting protein refolded in vitro. In vitro protein folding is aided by the addition of a redox buffer, which is composed of a small molecule disulfide and/or a small molecule thiol. The most commonly used redox buffer contains reduced and oxidized glutathione. Recently, aliphatic dithiols and aromatic monothiols have been employed as redox buffers. Aliphatic dithiols improved the yield of native protein as compared to the aliphatic thiol, glutathione. Dithiols mimic the in vivo protein folding catalyst, protein disulfide isomerase, which has two thiols per active site. Furthermore, aromatic monothiols increased the folding rate and yield of lysozyme and RNase A relative to glutathione. By combining the beneficial properties of aliphatic dithiols and aromatic monothiols, aromatic dithiols were designed and were expected to increase in vitro protein folding rates and yields.

Aromatic monothiols (1-4) and their corresponding disulfides (5-8), two series of ortho- and para-substituted ethylene glycol dithiols (9-15), and a series of aromatic quaternary ammonium salt dithiols (16-17) were synthesized on a multigram scale. Monothiols and disulfides (1-8) were utilized to fold lysozyme and bovine pancreatic trypsin inhibitor. Dithiols (11-17) were tested for their ability to fold lysozyme. At pH 7.0 and pH 8.0, and high protein concentration (1 mg/mL), aromatic dithiols (16, 17) and a monothiol (3) significantly enhanced the in vitro folding rate and yield of lysozyme relative to the aliphatic thiol, glutathione. Additionally, aromatic dithiols (16, 17) significantly enhance the folding yield as compared to the corresponding aromatic monothiol (3). Thus, the folding rate and yield enhancements achieved in in vitro protein folding at high protein concentration will decrease the volume of renaturation solution required for large scale processes and consequently reduce processing time and cost.