Phosphorylation is a ubiquitous protein post-translational modification, and the importance of phosphorylation of serine, threonine and tyrosine is well established. What is lesser known is that almost all heteroatom-containing amino acids can be phosphorylated and, among these, histidine, aspartate and cysteine have well established roles in bacterial signalling pathways. The first of these, phosphohistidine, is the most unusual in that it is labile under many conditions used to study proteins in vitro and can exist as two different isomers. In the present short review, we highlight the chemical challenges that this modification presents and the manner in which chemical synthesis has been used to identify and mimic the modification in proteins.

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