Karaj, Endri; Sindi, S H; Viranga Tillekeratne, L M
Small molecules remain an important category of therapeutic agents. Their binding to different proteins can lead to both desired and undesired biological effects. Identification of the proteins that a drug binds to has become an important step in drug development because it can lead to safer and more effective drugs. Parent bioactive molecules can be converted to appropriate probes that allow for visualization and identification of their target proteins. Typically, these probes are designed and synthesized utilizing some or all of five major tools; a photoactivatable group, a reporter tag, a linker, an affinity tag, and a bioorthogonal handle. This review covers two of the most challenging tools, photoactivation and bioorthogonal ligation. We provide a historical and theoretical background along with synthetic routes to prepare them. In addition, the review provides comparative analyses of the available tools that can assist decision making when designing such probes. A survey of most recent literature reports is included as well to identify recent trends in the field.