Nucleic acids research

Incorporation of thio-pseudoisocytosine into triplex-forming peptide nucleic acids for enhanced recognition of RNA duplexes.

PMID 24423869


Peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) have been developed for applications in biotechnology and therapeutics. There is great potential in the development of chemically modified PNAs or other triplex-forming ligands that selectively bind to RNA duplexes, but not single-stranded regions, at near-physiological conditions. Here, we report on a convenient synthesis route to a modified PNA monomer, thio-pseudoisocytosine (L), and binding studies of PNAs incorporating the monomer L. Thermal melting and gel electrophoresis studies reveal that L-incorporated 8-mer PNAs have superior affinity and specificity in recognizing the duplex region of a model RNA hairpin to form a pyrimidine motif major-groove RNA2-PNA triplex, without appreciable binding to single-stranded regions to form an RNA-PNA duplex or, via strand invasion, forming an RNA-PNA2 triplex at near-physiological buffer condition. In addition, an L-incorporated 8-mer PNA shows essentially no binding to single-stranded or double-stranded DNA. Furthermore, an L-modified 6-mer PNA, but not pseudoisocytosine (J) modified or unmodified PNA, binds to the HIV-1 programmed -1 ribosomal frameshift stimulatory RNA hairpin at near-physiological buffer conditions. The stabilization of an RNA2-PNA triplex by L modification is facilitated by enhanced van der Waals contacts, base stacking, hydrogen bonding and reduced dehydration energy. The destabilization of RNA-PNA and DNA-PNA duplexes by L modification is due to the steric clash and loss of two hydrogen bonds in a Watson-Crick-like G-L pair. An RNA2-PNA triplex is significantly more stable than a DNA2-PNA triplex, probably because the RNA duplex major groove provides geometry compatibility and favorable backbone-backbone interactions with PNA. Thus, L-modified triplex-forming PNAs may be utilized for sequence-specifically targeting duplex regions in RNAs for biological and therapeutic applications.