Highly chemoselective amide forming ligation reactions have facilitated the synthetic access to proteins and other amide-linked bioconjugates. In order to generalize this approach, a N(alpha)-2-phenyl ethanethiol scaffold has been developed to promote S to N acyl transfer in a manner analogous to native chemical ligation with N-terminal cysteine residues. Analysis of scaffold-mediated ligation reactions in aqueous solution indicate that the ligation rate at Xaa-Gly junctions is sufficient for the synthesis of large polypeptides. In addition, it was found that the ligation rate is independent of the stereocenter in the scaffold and S- to N-acyl transfer is rate limiting. These studies indicate that the N(alpha)-2-phenyl ethanethiol scaffold is a good candidate for the development of a ligation chemistry for the formation of Xaa-Gly peptides and other unhindered amides.