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We report a single-molecule mechanistic investigation into 2-cyanobenzothiazole (CBT) chemistry within a protein nanoreactor. When simple thiols reacted reversibly with CBT, the thioimidate monoadduct was approximately 80-fold longer-lived than the tetrahedral bisadduct, with important implications for the design of molecular walkers. Irreversible condensation between CBT derivatives and N-terminal cysteine residues has been established as a biocompatible reaction for site-selective biomolecular labeling and imaging. During the reaction between CBT and aminothiols, we resolved two transient intermediates, the thioimidate and the cyclic precursor of the thiazoline product, and determined the rate constants associated with the stepwise condensation, thereby providing critical information for a variety of applications, including the covalent inhibition of protein targets and dynamic combinatorial chemistry.

Original publication




Journal article


Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English)

Publication Date





15711 - 15716


Department of Chemistry, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3TA, UK.