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1.  Loop and Backbone Modifications of PNA Improve G-Quadruplex Binding Selectivity 
Targeting guanine (G) quadruplex structures is an exciting new strategy with potential for controlling gene expression and designing anticancer agents. Guanine-rich peptide nucleic acid (PNA) oligomers bind to homologous DNA and RNA to form hetero-G-quadruplexes but can also bind to complementary cytosine-rich sequences to form heteroduplexes. In this study, we incorporated backbone modifications into G-rich PNAs to improve the selectivity for quadruplex vs duplex formation. Incorporation of abasic sites as well as chiral modifications to the backbone were found to be effective strategies for improving selectivity as shown by UV-melting and surface plasmon resonance measurements. The enhanced selectivity is due primarily to decreased affinity for complementary sequences, since binding to the homologous DNA to form PNA-DNA heteroquadruplexes retains high affinity. The improved selectivity of these PNAs is an important step toward using PNAs for regulating gene expression by G quadruplex formation.
PMCID: PMC2819988  PMID: 19947597
2.  Strand Invasion of DNA Quadruplexes by PNA: Comparison of Homologous and Complementary Hybridization 
Chembiochem : a European journal of chemical biology  2013;14(12):10.1002/cbic.201300263.
Molecular recognition of DNA quadruplex structures is envisioned as a strategy for regulating gene expression at the transcriptional level and for in situ analysis of telomere structure and function. The recognition of DNA quadruplexes by peptide nucleic acid (PNA) oligomers is presented here, with a focus on comparing complementary, heteroduplex-forming and homologous, heteroquadruplex-forming PNAs. Surface plasmon resonance and optical spectroscopy experiments demonstrated that the efficacy of a recognition mode depended strongly on the target. For a quadruplex derived from the promoter regulatory region found upstream of the MYC proto-oncogene, the homologous PNA readily invades the DNA target to form a heteroquadruplex at high potassium concentration mimicking the intracellular environment, whereas the complementary PNA exhibits virtually no hybridization. In contrast, the complementary PNA is superior to the homologous PNA in hybridizing to a quadruplex modeled on the human telomere sequence. The results are discussed in terms of the different structural morphologies of the quadruplex targets and the implications for in vivo recognition of quadruplexes by PNAs.
PMCID: PMC3856695  PMID: 23868291
3.  Kinetic Discrimination in Recognition of DNA Quadruplex Targets by Guanine-Rich Heteroquadruplex-Forming PNA Probes 
Guanine-rich peptide nucleic acid probes hybridize to DNA G quadruplex targets with high affinity, forming PNA-DNA heteroquadruplexes. We report a surprising degree of kinetic discrimination for PNA heteroquadruplex formation with a series of DNA targets. The fastest hybridization is observed for targets folded into parallel morphologies.
PMCID: PMC3163151  PMID: 21717030
4.  Blue Fluorescent Dye-Protein Complexes Based on Fluorogenic Cyanine Dyes and Single Chain Antibody Fragments 
Organic & biomolecular chemistry  2010;9(4):1012-1020.
Fluoromodules are complexes formed upon the noncovalent binding of a fluorogenic dye to its cognate biomolecular partner, which significantly enhances the fluorescence quantum yield of the dye. Previously, several single-chain, variable fragment (scFv) antibodies were selected from a yeast cell surface-displayed library that activated fluorescence from a family of unsymmetrical cyanine dyes covering much of the visible and near-IR spectrum. The current work expands our repertoire of genetically encodable scFv-dye pairs by selecting and characterizing a group of scFvs that activate fluorogenic blue-absorbing, blue-fluorescing cyanine dyes, based on oxazole and thiazole heterocycles. The dye binds to both yeast cell surface-displayed and soluble scFvs with low nanomolar Kd values. These dye-protein fluoromodules exhibit high quantum yields, approaching unity for the brightest system. The promiscuity of these scFvs with other fluorogenic cyanine dyes was also examined. Fluorescence microscopy demonstrates that the yeast cell surface-displayed scFvs can be used for multicolor imaging. The prevalence of 405 nm lasers on confocal imaging and flow cytometry systems make these new reagents potentially valuable for cell biological studies.
PMCID: PMC3163152  PMID: 21180706
5.  Spectroscopic studies of the multiple binding modes of a trimethine-bridged cyanine dye with DNA 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(10):2561-2569.
The interaction between DNA and a benzothiazole-quinoline cyanine dye with a trimethine bridge (TO-PRO-3) results in the formation of three noncovalent complexes. Unbound TO-PRO-3 has an absorption maximum (λmax) of 632 nm, while the bound dyes (with calf thymus DNA) have electronic transitions with λmax = 514 nm (complex I), 584 nm (complex II) and 642 nm (complex III). The blue shifts in the electronic transitions and the bisignate shape of the circular dichroism bands indicate that TO-PRO-3 aggregates with DNA. Complex I has a high dye:base pair stoichiometry, which does not depend on base sequence or base modifications. The bound dyes exhibit strong interdye coupling, based on studies with a short oligonucleotide and on enhanced resonance scattering. From thermal dissociation studies, the complex is weakly associated with DNA. Studies with poly(dGdC)2 and poly(dIdC)2 and competitive binding with distamycin demonstrate that complex II is bound in the minor groove. This complex stabilizes the helix against dissociation. For complex III, the slightly red-shifted electronic transition and the stoichiometry are most consistent with intercalation. Using poly(dAdT)2, the complexes have the following dye mole fractions (Xdye): Xdye = 0.65 (complex I), 0.425 (complex II) and 0.34 (complex III).
PMCID: PMC156045  PMID: 12736305
6.  Groove-binding unsymmetrical cyanine dyes for staining of DNA: syntheses and characterization of the DNA-binding 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(21):6227-6234.
Two new crescent-shaped unsymmetrical cyanine dyes have been synthesised and their interactions with DNA have been investigated by different spectroscopic methods. These dyes are analogues to a minor groove binding unsymmetrical cyanine dye, BEBO, recently reported by us. In this dye, the structure of the known intercalating cyanine dye BO was extended with a benzothiazole substituent. To investigate how the identity of the extending heterocycle affects the binding to DNA, the new dyes BETO and BOXTO have a benzothiazole group and a benzoxazole moiety, respectively. Whereas BEBO showed a heterogeneous binding to calf thymus DNA, linear and circular dichroism studies of BOXTO indicate a high preference for minor groove binding. BETO also binds in the minor groove to mixed sequence DNA but has a contribution of non-ordered and non-emissive species present. A non-intercalative binding mode of the new dyes, as well as for BEBO, is further supported by electrophoresis unwinding assays. These dyes, having comparable spectral properties as the intercalating cyanine dyes, but bind in the minor groove instead, might be useful complements for staining of DNA. In particular, the benzoxazole substituted dye BOXTO has attractive fluorescence properties with a quantum yield of 0.52 when bound to mixed sequence DNA and a 300-fold increase in fluorescence intensity upon binding.
PMCID: PMC275463  PMID: 14576310
7.  Hybridization of Complementary and Homologous Peptide Nucleic Acid Oligomers to a Guanine Quadruplex-Forming RNA† 
Biochemistry  2006;45(6):1745-1754.
Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) oligomers targeted to guanine quadruplex-forming RNAs can be designed in two different ways. First, complementary cytosine-rich PNAs can hybridize by formation of Watson-Crick base pairs, resulting in hybrid PNA-RNA duplexes. Second, guanine-rich homologous PNAs can hybridize by formation of G-tetrads, resulting in hybrid PNA-RNA quadruplexes. UV thermal denaturation, circular dichroism and fluorescence spectroscopy experiments were used to compare these two recognition modes and revealed 1:1 duplex formation for the complementary PNA and 2:1 (PNA2-RNA) quadruplex formation for the homologous PNA. Both hybrids were very stable and hybridization was observed at low nanomolar concentrations. Hybrid quadruplex formation was equally efficient regardless of the PNA strand polarity, indicating a lack of interaction between the loop nucleobases on the PNA and RNA strands. The implications of this finding on sequence specificity as well as methods to improve affinity are also discussed.
PMCID: PMC2518313  PMID: 16460021
8.  Accelerated Photobleaching of a Cyanine Dye in the Presence of a Ternary Target DNA, PNA Probe, Dye Catalytic Complex: A Molecular Diagnostic 
Analytical chemistry  2009;81(6):2043-2052.
In many settings, molecular testing is needed but unavailable due to complexity and cost. Simple, rapid, and specific DNA detection technologies would provide important alternatives to existing detection methods. Here we report a novel, rapid nucleic acid detection method based on the accelerated photobleaching of the light-sensitive cyanine dye, 3,3′-diethylthiacarbocyanine iodide (DiSC2(3) I−), in the presence of a target genomic DNA and a complementary peptide nucleic acid (PNA) probe. On the basis of the UV–vis, circular dichroism, and fluorescence spectra of DiSC2(3) with PNA–DNA oligomer duplexes and on characterization of a product of photolysis of DiSC2(3) I−, a possible reaction mechanism is proposed. We propose that (1) a novel complex forms between dye, PNA, and DNA, (2) this complex functions as a photosensitizer producing 1O2, and (3) the 1O2 produced promotes photobleaching of dye molecules in the mixture. Similar cyanine dyes (DiSC3(3), DiSC4(3), DiSC5(3), and DiSCpy(3)) interact with preformed PNA–DNA oligomer duplexes but do not demonstrate an equivalent accelerated photobleaching effect in the presence of PNA and target genomic DNA. The feasibility of developing molecular diagnostic assays based on the accelerated photobleaching (the smartDNA assay) that results from the novel complex formed between DiSC2(3) and PNA–DNA is under way.
PMCID: PMC2827246  PMID: 19231844
9.  Twisted Cyanines: A Non-Planar Fluorogenic Dye with Superior Photostability and its Use in a Protein-Based Fluoromodule 
The cyanine dye thiazole orange (TO) is a well-known fluorogenic stain for DNA and RNA, but this property precludes its use as an intracellular fluorescent probe for non-nucleic acid biomolecules. Further, as is the case with many cyanines, the dye suffers from low photostability. Here we report the synthesis of a bridge-substituted version of TO named α-CN-TO, where the central methine hydrogen of TO is replaced by an electron withdrawing cyano group, which was expected to decrease the susceptibility of the dye toward singlet oxygen-mediated degradation. An X-ray crystal structure shows that α-CN-TO is twisted drastically out of plane, in contrast to TO, which crystallizes in the planar conformation. α-CN-TO retains the fluorogenic behavior of the parent dye TO in viscous glycerol/water solvent, but direct irradiation and indirect bleaching studies showed that α-CN-TO is essentially inert to visible light and singlet oxygen. In addition, the twisted conformation of α-CN-TO mitigates non-specific binding and fluorescence activation by DNA and a previously selected TO-binding protein and exhibits low background fluorescence in HeLa cell culture. α-CN-TO was then used to select a new protein that binds and activates fluorescence from the dye. The new α-CN-TO/protein fluoromodule exhibits superior photostability to an analogous TO/protein fluoromodule. These properties indicate that α-CN-TO will be a useful fluorogenic dye in combination with specific RNA and protein binding partners for both in vitro and cell-based applications. More broadly, structural features that promote nonplanar conformations can provide an effective method for reducing nonspecific binding of cationic dyes to nucleic acids and other biomolecules.
PMCID: PMC3574795  PMID: 23252842
10.  A Rainbow of Fluoromodules: A Promiscuous scFv Protein Binds to and Activates a Diverse Set of Fluorogenic Cyanine Dyes 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2008;130(38):12620-12621.
Combined magnetic and fluorescence cell sorting were used to select Fluorogen Activating Proteins (FAPs) from a yeast surface-displayed library for binding to the fluorogenic cyanine dye Dimethyl Indole Red (DIR). Several FAPs were selected that bind to the dye with low nanomolar Kd values and enhance fluorescence more than 100-fold. One of these FAPs also exhibits considerable promiscuity, binding with high affinity to several other fluorogenic cyanine dyes with emission wavelengths covering most of the visible and near-IR regions of the spectrum. This significantly expands the number and wavelength range of scFv-based fluoromodules.
PMCID: PMC2633110  PMID: 18761447
11.  Selective G-Quadruplex DNA Recognition by a New Class of Designed Cyanines 
Molecules (Basel, Switzerland)  2013;18(11):13588-13607.
A variety of cyanines provide versatile and sensitive agents acting as DNA stains and sensors and have been structurally modified to bind in the DNA minor groove in a sequence dependent manner. Similarly, we are developing a new set of cyanines that have been designed to achieve highly selective binding to DNA G-quadruplexes with much weaker binding to DNA duplexes. A systematic set of structurally analogous trimethine cyanines has been synthesized and evaluated for quadruplex targeting. The results reveal that elevated quadruplex binding and specificity are highly sensitive to the polymethine chain length, heterocyclic structure and intrinsic charge of the compound. Biophysical experiments show that the compounds display significant selectivity for quadruplex binding with a higher preference for parallel stranded quadruplexes, such as cMYC. NMR studies revealed the primary binding through an end-stacking mode and SPR studies showed the strongest compounds have primary KD values below 100 nM that are nearly 100-fold weaker for duplexes. The high selectivity of these newly designed trimethine cyanines for quadruplexes as well as their ability to discriminate between different quadruplexes are extremely promising features to develop them as novel probes for targeting quadruplexes in vivo.
PMCID: PMC4457452  PMID: 24192912
G-quadruplex; cyanines; c-myc; telomere; end-stacking; halogenation; nuclear magnetic resonance; surface plasmon resonance; thermal melting
12.  Enhanced Photostability of Genetically Encodable Fluoromodules Based on Fluorogenic Cyanine Dyes and a Promiscuous Protein Partner 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2009;131(36):12960-12969.
Fluoromodules are discrete complexes of biomolecules and fluorogenic dyes. Binding of the dyes to their cognate biomolecule partners results in enhanced dye fluorescence. We exploited a previously reported promiscuous binding interaction between a single chain, variable fragment antibody protein and a family of cyanine dyes to create new protein-dye fluoromodules that exhibit enhanced photostability while retaining high affinity protein-dye binding. Modifications to the dye structure included electron withdrawing groups that provide resistance to photo-oxidative damage. Low nanomolar equilibrium dissociation constants were found for the new dyes. Fluorescence microscopy illustrates how yeast can be surface-labeled with three different colors based on a single protein and appropriately chosen dyes.
PMCID: PMC2744899  PMID: 19737016
13.  Subnanomolar antisense activity of phosphonate-peptide nucleic acid (PNA) conjugates delivered by cationic lipids to HeLa cells 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;36(13):4424-4432.
In the search of facile and efficient methods for cellular delivery of peptide nucleic acids (PNA), we have synthesized PNAs conjugated to oligophosphonates via phosphonate glutamine and bis-phosphonate lysine amino acid derivatives thereby introducing up to twelve phosphonate moieties into a PNA oligomer. This modification of the PNA does not interfere with the nucleic acid target binding affinity based on thermal stability of the PNA/RNA duplexes. When delivered to cultured HeLa pLuc705 cells by Lipofectamine, the PNAs showed dose-dependent nuclear antisense activity in the nanomolar range as inferred from induced luciferase activity as a consequence of pre-mRNA splicing correction by the antisense-PNA. Antisense activity depended on the number of phosphonate moieties and the most potent hexa-bis-phosphonate-PNA showed at least 20-fold higher activity than that of an optimized PNA/DNA hetero-duplex. These results indicate that conjugation of phosphonate moieties to the PNA can dramatically improve cellular delivery mediated by cationic lipids without affecting on the binding affinity and sequence discrimination ability, exhibiting EC50 values down to one nanomolar. Thus the intracellular efficacy of PNA oligomers rival that of siRNA and the results therefore emphasize that provided sufficient in vivo bioavailability of PNA can be achieved these molecules may be developed into potent gene therapeutic drugs.
PMCID: PMC2490735  PMID: 18596083
14.  Affinity Purification of DNA and RNA from Environmental Samples with Peptide Nucleic Acid Clamps 
Bispeptide nucleic acids (bis-PNAs; PNA clamps), PNA oligomers, and DNA oligonucleotides were evaluated as affinity purification reagents for subfemtomolar 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) and rRNA targets in soil, sediment, and industrial air filter nucleic acid extracts. Under low-salt hybridization conditions (10 mM NaPO4, 5 mM disodium EDTA, and 0.025% sodium dodecyl sulfate [SDS]) a PNA clamp recovered significantly more target DNA than either PNA or DNA oligomers. The efficacy of PNA clamps and oligomers was generally enhanced in the presence of excess nontarget DNA and in a low-salt extraction-hybridization buffer. Under high-salt conditions (200 mM NaPO4, 100 mM disodium EDTA, and 0.5% SDS), however, capture efficiencies with the DNA oligomer were significantly greater than with the PNA clamp and PNA oligomer. Recovery and detection efficiencies for target DNA concentrations of ≥100 pg were generally >20% but depended upon the specific probe, solution background, and salt condition. The DNA probe had a lower absolute detection limit of 100 fg of target (830 zM [1 zM = 10−21 M]) in high-salt buffer. In the absence of exogenous DNA (e.g., soil background), neither the bis-PNA nor the PNA oligomer achieved the same absolute detection limit even under a more favorable low-salt hybridization condition. In the presence of a soil background, however, both PNA probes provided more sensitive absolute purification and detection (830 zM) than the DNA oligomer. In varied environmental samples, the rank order for capture probe performance in high-salt buffer was DNA > PNA > clamp. Recovery of 16S rRNA from environmental samples mirrored quantitative results for DNA target recovery, with the DNA oligomer generating more positive results than either the bis-PNA or PNA oligomer, but PNA probes provided a greater incidence of detection from environmental samples that also contained a higher concentration of nontarget DNA and RNA. Significant interactions between probe type and environmental sample indicate that the most efficacious capture system depends upon the particular sample type (and background nucleic acid concentration), target (DNA or RNA), and detection objective.
PMCID: PMC92168  PMID: 10919804
15.  Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) cell penetrating peptide (CPP) conjugates as carriers for cellular delivery of antisense oligomers 
Artificial DNA, PNA & XNA  2011;2(3):90-99.
We have explored the merits of a novel delivery strategy for the antisense oligomers based on cell penetrating peptide (CPP) conjugated to a carrier PNA with sequence complementary to part of the antisense oligomer. The effect of these carrier CPP-PNAs was evaluated by using antisense PNA targeting splicing correction of the mutated luciferase gene in the HeLa pLuc705 cell line, reporting cellular (nuclear) uptake of the antisense PNA via luciferase activity measurement. Carrier CPP-PNA constructs were studied in terms of construct modification (with octaarginine and/or decanoic acid) and carrier PNA length (to adjust binding affinity). In general, the carrier CPP-PNA constructs including the ones with decanoyl modification provided significant increase of the activity of unmodified antisense PNA as well as of antisense octaarginine-PNA conjugates. Antisense activity, and by inference cellular delivery, of unmodified antisense PNA was enhanced at least 20-fold at 6 μM upon the complexation with an equimolar amount of nonamer carrier decanoyl-CPP-PNA (Deca-cPNA1(9)-(D-Arg)8). The antisense activity of a CPP-PNA ((D-Arg)8-asPNA) (at 2 μM) was improved 6-fold and 8-fold by a heptamer carrier CPP-PNA (cPNA1(7)-(D-Arg)8) and hexamer carrier decanoyl-CPP-PNA (Deca-cPNA1(6)-(D-Arg)8), respectively, without showing significant additional cellular toxicity. Most interestingly, the activity reached the same level obtained by enhancement with endosomolytic chloroquine (CQ) treatment, suggesting that the carrier might facilitate endosomal escape. Furthermore, 50% downregulation of luciferase expression at 60 nM siRNA was obtained using this carrier CPP-PNA delivery strategy (with CQ co-treatment) for a single stranded antisense RNA targeting normal luciferase mRNA. These results indicated that CPP-PNA carriers may be used as effective cellular delivery vectors for different types of antisense oligomers and also allows use of combinations of (at least two) different CPP ligands.
PMCID: PMC3324339  PMID: 22567192
antisense; carrier; cell penetrating peptide (CPP); cellular delivery; peptide nucleic acid (PNA); siRNA
16.  Targeting DNA G-Quadruplex Structures with Peptide Nucleic Acids 
Current pharmaceutical design  2012;18(14):1984-1991.
Regulation of genetic functions based on targeting DNA or RNA sequences with complementary oligonucleotides is especially attractive in the post-genome era. Oligonucleotides can be rationally designed to bind their targets based on simple nucleic acid base pairing rules. However, the use of natural DNA and RNA oligonucleotides as targeting probes can cause numerous off-target effects. In addition, natural nucleic acids are prone to degradation in vivo by various nucleases. To address these problems, nucleic acid mimics such as peptide nucleic acids (PNA) have been developed. They are more stable, show less off-target effects, and, in general, have better binding affinity to their targets. However, their high affinity to DNA can reduce their sequence-specificity. The formation of alternative DNA secondary structures, such as the G-quadruplex, provides an extra level of specificity as targets for PNA oligomers. PNA probes can target the loops of G-quadruplex, invade the core by forming PNA-DNA guanine-tetrads, or bind to the open bases on the complementary cytosine-rich strand. Not only could the development of such G-quadruplex-specific probes allow regulation of gene expression, but it will also provide a means to clarify the biological roles G-quadruplex structures may possess.
PMCID: PMC3523305  PMID: 22376112
Peptide Nucleic Acids; G-quadruplex; gene expression regulation
17.  Incorporation of thio-pseudoisocytosine into triplex-forming peptide nucleic acids for enhanced recognition of RNA duplexes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(6):4008-4018.
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.
PMCID: PMC3973316  PMID: 24423869
18.  Evaluating the Effect of Ionic Strength on Duplex Stability for PNA Having Negatively or Positively Charged Side Chains 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58670.
The enhanced thermodynamic stability of PNA:DNA and PNA:RNA duplexes compared with DNA:DNA and DNA:RNA duplexes has been attributed in part to the lack of electrostatic repulsion between the uncharged PNA backbone and negatively charged DNA or RNA backbone. However, there are no previously reported studies that systematically evaluate the effect of ionic strength on duplex stability for PNA having a charged backbone. Here we investigate the role of charge repulsion in PNA binding by synthesizing PNA strands having negatively or positively charged side chains, then measuring their duplex stability with DNA or RNA at varying salt concentrations. At low salt concentrations, positively charged PNA binds more strongly to DNA and RNA than does negatively charged PNA. However, at medium to high salt concentrations, this trend is reversed, and negatively charged PNA shows higher affinity for DNA and RNA than does positively charged PNA. These results show that charge screening by counterions in solution enables negatively charged side chains to be incorporated into the PNA backbone without reducing duplex stability with DNA and RNA. This research provides new insight into the role of electrostatics in PNA binding, and demonstrates that introduction of negatively charged side chains is not significantly detrimental to PNA binding affinity at physiological ionic strength. The ability to incorporate negative charge without sacrificing binding affinity is anticipated to enable the development of PNA therapeutics that take advantage of both the inherent benefits of PNA and the multitude of charge-based delivery technologies currently being developed for DNA and RNA.
PMCID: PMC3590165  PMID: 23484047
19.  Antiproliferative effect in chronic myeloid leukaemia cells by antisense peptide nucleic acids 
Nucleic Acids Research  2002;30(17):3712-3721.
Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) is a synthetic DNA analogue that is resistant to nucleases and proteases and binds with exceptional affinity to RNA. Because of these properties PNA has the potential to become a powerful therapeutic agent to be used in vivo. Until now, however, the use of PNA in vivo has not been much investigated. Here, we have attempted to reduce the expression of the bcr/abl oncogene in chronic myeloid leukaemia KYO-1 cells using a 13mer PNA sequence (asPNA) designed to hybridise to the b2a2 junction of bcr/abl mRNA. To enhance cellular uptake asPNA was covalently linked to the basic peptide VKRKKKP (NLS-asPNA). Moreover, to investigate the cellular uptake by confocal microscopy, both PNAs were linked by their N-terminus to fluorescein (FL). Studies of uptake, carried out at 4 and 37°C on living KYO-1 cells stained with hexidium iodide, showed that both NLS-asPNA-FL and asPNA-FL were taken up by the cells, through a receptor-independent mechanism. The intracellular amount of NLS-asPNA-FL was about two to three times higher than that of asPNA-FL. Using a semi-quantitative RT– PCR technique we found that 10 µM asPNA and NLS-asPNA reduced the level of b2a2 mRNA in KYO-1 cells to 20 ± 5% and 60 ± 10% of the control, respectively. Western blot analysis showed that asPNA promoted a significant inhibition of p210BCR/ABL protein: residual protein measured in cells exposed for 48 h to asPNA was ∼35% of the control. Additionally, asPNA impaired cell growth to 50 ± 5% of the control and inhibited completion of the cell cycle. In summary, these results demonstrate that a PNA 13mer is taken up by KYO-1 cells and is capable of producing a significant and specific down-regulation of the bcr/abl oncogene involved in leukaemogenesis.
PMCID: PMC137404  PMID: 12202756
20.  A pyrenyl-PNA probe for DNA and RNA recognition 
Artificial DNA, PNA & XNA  2010;1(2):83-89.
The design and the synthesis of a PNA oligomer containing a pyrenyl residue in the backbone were performed. PNA sequence was chosen complementary to a “G rich” target sequence involved in G-quadruplex formation. The pyrenyl unit replaced a nucleobase in the middle of the PNA through covalent linkage to the backbone by a carboxymethyl unit. A systematic study on the binding properties of this probe towards DNA and RNA complementary strands was carried out by UV and fluorescence spectroscopy. UV melting curves indicated that the PNA probe binds more tightly to RNA rather than to DNA. Thermodynamic data obtained by Van't Hoff fitting of the melting curves indicated that, in the case of RNA, a more favorable interaction occurs between the pyrenyl unit and the RNA nucleobases, leading to a very favorable enthalpic contribution.
The fluorescence analysis showed specific quenching of the pyrene emission associated to the formation of the full-match PNA-DNA or PNA-RNA duplexes. Again, this behavior was more evident in the case of RNA, consistently with the stronger interaction of the pyrenyl unit with the complementary strand. In order to study the sequence specificity of the pyrenyl-PNA probe (pyr-PNA), recognition experiments on mismatched DNA and RNA sequences were also performed.
PMCID: PMC3116571  PMID: 21686243
peptide nucleic acid; pyrene; DNA; RNA; fluorescence
21.  High-affinity triplex targeting of double stranded DNA using chemically modified peptide nucleic acid oligomers 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;37(13):4498-4507.
While sequence-selective dsDNA targeting by triplex forming oligonucleotides has been studied extensively, only very little is known about the properties of PNA–dsDNA triplexes—mainly due to the competing invasion process. Here we show that when appropriately modified using pseudoisocytosine substitution, in combination with (oligo)lysine or 9-aminoacridine conjugation, homopyrimidine PNA oligomers bind complementary dsDNA targets via triplex formation with (sub)nanomolar affinities (at pH 7.2, 150 mM Na+). Binding affinity can be modulated more than 1000-fold by changes in pH, PNA oligomer length, PNA net charge and/or by substitution of pseudoisocytosine for cytosine, and conjugation of the DNA intercalator 9-aminoacridine. Furthermore, 9-aminoacridine conjugation also strongly enhanced triplex invasion. Specificity for the fully matched target versus one containing single centrally located mismatches was more than 150-fold. Together the data support the use of homopyrimidine PNAs as efficient and sequence selective tools in triplex targeting strategies under physiological relevant conditions.
PMCID: PMC2715256  PMID: 19474349
22.  Evaluation of Polymethine Dyes as Potential Probes for Near Infrared Fluorescence Imaging of Tumors: Part - 1 
Theranostics  2013;3(9):692-702.
Near-infrared (NIR) organic dyes have become important for many biomedical applications, including in vivo optical imaging. Conjugation of NIR fluorescent dyes to photosensitizing molecules (photosensitizers) holds strong potential for NIR fluorescence image guided photodynamic therapy (PDT) of cancer. Therefore, we were interested in investigating the photophysical properties, in vivo tumor-affinity and fluorescence imaging potential of a series of heterocyclic polymethine dyes, which could then be conjugated to certain PDT agents. For our present study, we selected a series of symmetrical polymethine dyes containing a variety of bis-N-substituted indole or benzindole moieties linked by linear conjugation with and without a fused substituted cyclohexene ring. The N-alkyl side chain at the C-terminal position was functionalized with sulfonic, carboxylic acid, methyl ester or hydroxyl groups. Although, among the parent cyanine dyes investigated, the commercially available, cyanine dye IR783 (3) (bis-indole-N-butylsulfonate)-polymethine dye with a cyclic chloro-cyclohexene moiety showed best fluorescence-imaging ability, based on its spectral properties (λAbs=782 nm, λFl=810 nm, ε = 261,000 M-1cm-1, ΦFl≈0.08) and tumor affinity. In addition to 3, parent dyes IR820 and Cypate (6) were also selected and subjected to further modifications by introducing desired functional groups, which could enable further conjugation of the cyanine dyes to an effective photosensitizer HPPH developed in our laboratory. The synthesis and biological studies (tumor-imaging and PDT) of the resulting bifunctional conjugates are discussed in succeeding paper (Part-2 of this study).
PMCID: PMC3767116  PMID: 24019854
Photodynamic therapy; Near Infrared Fluorophores; Reactive Oxygen Species; Near Infrared Fluorescence Imaging; Fluorescence Quantum Yields.
23.  Quadruplex formation is necessary for stable PNA invasion into duplex DNA of BCL2 promoter region 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(16):7114-7123.
Guanine-rich sequences are highly abundant in the human genome, especially in regulatory regions. Because guanine-rich sequences have the unique ability to form G-quadruplexes, these structures may play a role in the regulation of gene transcription. In previous studies, we demonstrated that formation of G-quadruplexes could be induced with peptide nucleic acids (PNAs). PNAs designed to bind the C-rich strand upstream of the human BCL2 gene promoted quadruplex formation in the complementary G-rich strand. However, the question whether G-quadruplex formation was essential for PNA invasion remained unanswered. In this study, we compared PNA invasion in the native and mutant, i.e. not forming G-quadruplex, BCL2 sequences and showed that G-quadruplex is required for effective PNA invasion into duplex DNA. This finding provides strong evidence for not only sequence-specific, but also quadruplex specific, gene targeting with PNA probes. In addition, we examined DNA-duplex invasion potential of PNAs of various charges. Using the gel shift assay, chemical probing and dimethyl sulfate (DMS) protection studies, we determined that uncharged zwitterionic PNA has the highest binding specificity while preserving efficient duplex invasion.
PMCID: PMC3167611  PMID: 21593130
24.  Effective delivery of antisense peptide nucleic acid oligomers into cells by anthrax protective antigen 
Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) is highly stable and binds to complementary RNA and DNA with high affinity, but it resists cellular uptake, thereby limiting its bioavailability. We investigated whether protective antigen (PA, a non-toxic component of anthrax toxin) could transport antisense PNA oligomers into reporter cells that contain luciferase transgenes with mutant β-globin IVS2 intronic inserts, which permit aberrant pre-mRNA splicing and impair luciferase expression. PNA oligomers antisense to mutant splice sites in these IVS2 inserts induced luciferase expression when effectively delivered into the cells. PNA 18-mers with C-terminal poly-lysine tails [PNA(Lys)8] demonstrated modest sequence-specific antisense activity by themselves at micromolar concentrations in luc-IVS2 reporter cell cultures. However, this activity was greatly amplified by PA. Antisense PNA(Lys)8 with but not without PA also corrected the IVS2-654 β-globin splice defect in cultured erythroid precursor cells from a patient with β-thalassemia [genotype, IVS2-654(β0/βE)], providing further evidence that anthrax PA can effectively transport antisense PNA oligomers into cells.
PMCID: PMC2581503  PMID: 18774771
peptide nucleic acid; antisense; anthrax protective antigen
25.  Halogenated Pentamethine Cyanine Dyes Exhibiting High Fidelity for G-Quadruplex DNA 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2012;20(24):7002-7011.
Design and optimization of quadruplex-specific small molecules is developing into an attractive strategy for anti-cancer therapeutics with some promising candidates in clinical trials. A number of therapeutically favorable features of cyanine molecules can be effectively exploited to develop them as promising quadruplex-targeting agents. Herein, the design, synthesis and evaluation of a series of dimethylindoliene cyanine dyes with varying halogen substitutions are reported. Their interactions with telomeric and c-myc quadruplexes as well as a reference duplex sequence have been evaluated using thermal melting, biosensor-surface plasmon resonance, circular dichroism, isothermal titration calorimetry and mass spectrometry. Thermal melting analysis indicates that these ligands exhibit significant quadruplex stabilization and a very low duplex binding, with the dimethyl incorporation of paramount importance for decreased duplex affinity. Circular dichroism studies showed that the interaction of cyanines with quadruplex structures are primarily through stacking at one or both ends of the terminal tetrads with the two (trimethylammonium)propyl groups interacting in the accessible quadruplex grooves. Surface plasmon resonance and mass spectral studies shows the formation of an initial strong 1:1 complex followed by a significantly weaker secondary binding. Isothermal calorimetry studies show that the interaction of cyanines is predominantly entropy driven. In line with the design principles, this work provides new insights for further developing potent, highly selective cyanines as promising quadruplex-specific agents.
PMCID: PMC3539309  PMID: 23127491
Cyanines; G-quadruplex; halogenation; telomere stabilization; surface plasmon resonance; isothermal calorimetry; mass spectrometry

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