Amino acid sequencing has become a highly automated and efficient process. It plays an invaluable role in protein biochemistry, and is making an increasing contribution to modern molecular biology and to the interpretation of DNA sequences.

But things have changed since Frederick Sanger, a pioneer in protein chemistry, first determined the amino acid sequence of insulin more than 30 years ago. The advent in recent years of rapid nucleic acid sequencing techniques has taken much of the drudgery away from direct amino acid sequencing of large proteins, and has instead put more emphasis on the importance of determining at least limited amounts of sequence directly from the protein of interest.

The development of amino acid sequencing has depended almost entirely upon the Edman method of chemical degradation that removes the N-terminal amino acid from a protein or peptide chain, leaving a new N-terminus on the chain—now one residue shorter. This...

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