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The biotin-tagged electrophiles 1-biotinamido-4-(4'-[maleimidoethylcyclohexane]-carboxamido)butane (BMCC) and N-iodoacetyl-N-biotinylhexylenediamine (IAB) have been used as model electrophile probes in complex proteomes to identify protein targets associated with chemical toxicity. Whereas IAB activates stress signaling and apoptosis in HEK293 cells, BMCC does not. Cysteine Michael adducts formed from BMCC and nonbiotinylated analogues rapidly disappeared in the intact cells, whereas the adducts were stable in BMCC-treated subcellular fractions, even in the presence of the cellular reductants reduced glutathione, NADH, and NADPH. In contrast, cysteine thioether adducts formed from IAB and its nonbiotinylated analogues were stable in intact cells. Loss of the BMCC adduct in cells was reduced at 4 degrees C, which suggests the involvement of a metabolic process in adduct removal. Model studies with a glutathione-BMCC conjugate indicated rapid hydrolysis of the adducted imide ring, but neither the conjugate nor its hydrolysis product dissociated to release the electrophile in neutral aqueous buffer at significant rates. The results suggest that low BMCC toxicity reflects facile repair that results in transient adduction, which fails to trigger damage-signaling pathways.