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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
peptide nucleic acid; antisense; anthrax protective antigen
We have developed a class of dendron-based fluorogenic dyes (termed dyedrons) comprised of multiple cyanine (Cy3) donors coupled to a single malachite green (MG) acceptor that fluoresce only when the MG is noncovalently but specifically bound to a cognate single chain antibody (scFv). These cell-impermeant dyedrons exploit efficient intramolecular energy transfer from Cy3 donors to stoichiometrically amplify the fluorescence of MG chromophores that are activated by binding to the scFv. These chromophore enhancements, coupled with our optimized scFv, can significantly increase fluorescence emission generated by the dyedron/scFv complex to brightness levels several-fold greater than that for single fluorescent proteins and targeted small molecule fluorophores. Efficient intramolecular quenching of free dyedrons enables sensitive homogeneous (no wash) detection under typical tissue culture conditions, with undetectable nonspecific activation.
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.
Biotinylated homopyrimidine decamer peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) are shown to form sequence-specific and stable complexes with complementary oligopurine targets in linear double-stranded DNA. The noncovalent complexes are visualized by electron microscopy (EM) without chemical fixation using streptavidin as an EM marker. The triplex stoichiometry of the PNA-DNA complexes (two PNA molecules presumably binding by Watson-Crick and Hoogsteen pairing with one of the strands of the duplex DNA) is indicated by the appearance of two streptavidin 'beads' per target site in some micrographs, and is also supported by the formation of two retardation bands in a gel shift assay. Quantitative analysis of the positions of the streptavidin 'beads' revealed that under optimized conditions PNA-DNA complexes are preferably formed with the fully complementary target. An increase in either the PNA concentration or the incubation time leads to binding at sites containing one or two mismatches. Our results demonstrate that biotinylated PNAs can be used for EM mapping of short targets in duplex DNA.
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.
peptide nucleic acid; pyrene; DNA; RNA; fluorescence
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.
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.
Peptide nucleic acid oligomers (PNAs) have a remarkable ability to invade duplex DNA at polypurine–polypyrimidine target sequences. Applications for PNAs in medicine and biotechnology would increase if the rules governing their hybridization to mixed base sequences were also clear. Here we describe hybridization of PNAs to mixed base sequences and demonstrate that simple chemical modifications can enhance recognition. Easily synthesized and readily soluble eight and 10 base PNAs bind to plasmid DNA at an inverted repeat that is likely to form a cruciform structure, providing convenient tags for creating PNA–plasmid complexes. PNAs also bind to mixed base sequences that cannot form cruciforms, suggesting that recognition is a general phenomenon. Rates of strand invasion are temperature dependent and can be enhanced by attaching PNAs to positively charged peptides. Our results support use of PNAs to access the information within duplex DNA and demonstrate that simple chemical modifications can make PNAs even more powerful agents for strand invasion. Simple strategies for enhancing strand invasion should facilitate the use of PNAs: (i) as biophysical probes of double-stranded DNA; (ii) to target promoters to control gene expression; and (iii) to direct sequence-specific mutagenesis.
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.
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.
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.
Structurally diverse near-infrared (NIR) absorbing polymethine dyes were prepared and their fluorescence lifetimes (FLT) were evaluated in relation to their structural features. Comparative FLT analysis based on the modification of methine chain length and heterocyclic system showed that indolium or benz[e]indolium heptamethine dyes exhibited longer FLT than the benz[c,d]indolium trimethine dye. Modification of heterocyclic system alone with an intact chain length showed that indolium-based heptamethine dyes showed approximately 30% longer FLT than the benz[e]indolium-based dyes. In general, the FLT of polymethine dyes increased from polar to non-polar solvents. In addition, correlation study between the theoretical and the experimental FLT for indocyanine green (ICG) suggests that the lack of structural rigidity for these cyanine dyes is primarily responsible for the loss of the excited state energy via non-radiative pathway.
Cyanine dyes; Fluorescence lifetime
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.
Peptide Nucleic Acids; G-quadruplex; gene expression regulation
The supramolecular assembly of a novel cyanine dye, 3,3′-di(3-sulfopropyl)-4,5,4′,5′-dibenzo-9-ethyl-thiacarbocyanine triethylammonium salt (ETC) was designed to verify specific intramolecular G-quadruplexes from duplex and single-strand DNAs. Spectral results have shown that ETC presented two major distinct signatures with specific intramolecular G-quadruplexes in vitro: (i) dramatic changes in the absorption spectra (including disappearance of absorption peak around 660 nm and appearance of independent new peak around 584 nm); (ii) ∼70 times enhancement of fluorescence signal at 600 nm. Furthermore, based on 1H-nuclear magnetic resonance and circular dichroism results, the preferring binding of ETC to specific intramolecular G-quadruplexes probably result from end-stacking, and the loop structure nearby also plays an important role.
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).
Photodynamic therapy; Near Infrared Fluorophores; Reactive Oxygen Species; Near Infrared Fluorescence Imaging; Fluorescence Quantum Yields.
Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) has become an extremely powerful tool in chemistry and biology. Although PNA recognizes single-stranded nucleic acids with exceptionally high affinity and sequence selectivity, there is considerable ongoing effort to further improve properties of PNA for both fundamental science and practical applications. The present paper discusses selected recent studies that improve on cellular uptake and binding of PNA to double-stranded DNA and RNA. The focus is on chemical modifications of PNA's backbone and heterocyclic nucleobases. The paper selects representative recent studies and does not attempt to provide comprehensive coverage of the broad and vibrant field of PNA modification.
DNA and RNA oligomers that contain stretches of guanines can associate to form stable secondary structures including G-quadruplexes. Our study shows that the (UUAAAAGAAAAGGGGGGAU) RNA sequence, from the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1 polypurine tract or PPT sequence) forms in vitro a stable folded structure involving the G-run. We have investigated the ability of pyrimidine peptide nucleic acid (PNA) oligomers targeted to the PPT sequence to invade the folded RNA and exhibit biological activity at the translation level in vitro and in cells. We find that PNAs can form stable complexes even with the structured PPT RNA target at neutral pH. We show that T-rich PNAs, namely the tridecamer-I PNA (C4T4CT4) forms triplex structures whereas the C-rich tridecamer-II PNA (TC6T4CT) likely forms a duplex with the target RNA. Interestingly, we find that both C-rich and T-rich PNAs arrested in vitro translation elongation specifically at the PPT target site. Finally, we show that T-rich and C-rich tridecamer PNAs that have been identified as efficient and specific blockers of translation elongation in vitro, specifically inhibit translation in streptolysin-O permeabilized cells where the PPT target sequence has been introduced upstream the reporter luciferase gene.