Synthesis and RNA-Binding Properties of Extended Nucleobases for Triplex-Forming Peptide Nucleic Acids

Ilze Kumpina, Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis
Nikita Brodyagin, Binghamton University State University of New York
James A. Mackay, Elizabethtown College
Scott D. Kennedy, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry
Martins Katkevics, Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis
Eriks Rozners, Binghamton University State University of New York


Triple-helix formation, using Hoogsteen hydrogen bonding of triplex-forming oligonucleotides, represents an attractive method for sequence-specific recognition of double-stranded nucleic acids. However, practical applications using triple-helix-forming oligonucleotides and their analogues are limited to long homopurine sequences. The key problem for recognition of pyrimidines is that they present only one hydrogen-bond acceptor or donor group in the major groove. Herein, we report our first attempt to overcome this problem by using peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) modified with extended nucleobases that form three hydrogen bonds along the entire Hoogsteen edge of the Watson-Crick base pair. New nucleobase triples (five) were designed, and their hydrogen bonding feasibility was confirmed by ab initio calculations. PNA monomers carrying the modified nucleobases were synthesized and incorporated in short model PNA sequences. Isothermal titration calorimetry showed that these nucleobases had a modest binding affinity for their double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) targets. Finally, molecular modeling of the modified triples in PNA-dsRNA helix suggested that the modest binding affinity was caused by subtle structural deviations from ideal hydrogen-bonding arrangements or disrupted π-stacking of the extended nucleobase scaffolds.