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Deamidation is a chemical reaction in which an amide functional group in the side chain of the amino acids asparagine or glutamine is removed or converted to another functional group. Typically, asparagine is converted to aspartic acid or isoaspartic acid. Glutamine is converted to glutamic acid or pyroglutamic acid (5-oxoproline). In a protein or peptide, these reactions are important because they may alter its structure, stability or function and may lead to protein degradation. The resulting mass adduct is a +1 Da shift.
In the deamidation of an asparagine residue under physiological conditions, the side chain is attacked by the nitrogen atom of the following peptide group (in black at top right of Figure), forming an asymmetric succinimide intermediate (in red). The asymmetry of the intermediate results in two products of its hydrolysis, either aspartic acid (in black at left) or isoaspartic acid, which is a beta amino acid (in green at bottom right). The deamidation of a glutamine residue may proceed via the same mechanism but at a much slower rate since formation of the six-member-ring glutarimide intermediate is less favoured than the succinimide intermediate for asparagine.
As a free amino acid, or as the N-terminal residue of a peptide or protein, glutamine deamidates readily to form pyroglutamic acid (5-oxoproline). The reaction proceeds via nucleophilic attack of the α-amino group on the side-chain amide to form a γ-lactam with the elimination of ammonia from the side-chain.
Protein deamidation has been commonly analyzed by reverse-phase liquid chromatography (RPLC) through peptide mapping. Recently reported novel ERLIC-MS/MS method would enhance the separation of deamidated and non-deamidated peptides with increased identification and quantitation quantification.
Deamidation reactions have been conjectured to be one of the factors that limit the useful lifetime of proteins.
Deamidation proceeds much more quickly if the susceptible amino acid is followed by a small, flexible residue such as glycine whose low steric hindrance leaves the peptide group open for attack. Deamidation reactions also proceed much more quickly at elevated pH (>10) and temperature.