A method for identifying cysteine-containing peptides in proteins is presented using 2-bromoacetamido-4-nitrophenol (BNP) to introduce an easily detectable probe. The formation of a covalent bond between the protein sulfhydryl group and the acetamido moiety of BNP introduces a chromophore with an absorbance maximum at 410 nm. The modified protein can then be cleaved with appropriate proteases and the resulting peptides separated by chromatographic methods. Monitoring the effluent at a single wavelength (405 nm) provides a rapid and simple method of detecting and isolating only those peptides which contain cysteine residue(s). The nitrophenol derivative is stable under conditions required for protease cleavage. The reagent is therefore useful for locating cysteine-containing peptides in protein digests and can be used to explore the accessibility of different cysteines under a variety of conditions. The ease of modification, specificity of reaction, product stability, and simple detection of modified peptides make BNP ideal for investigation of cysteine residues.