Efficient intracellular delivery is essential for high activity of nucleic acids based therapeutics, including antisense agents. Several strategies have been developed and practically all rely on auxiliary transfection reagents such as cationic lipids, cationic polymers and cell penetrating peptides as complexing agents and carriers of the nucleic acids. However, uptake mechanisms remain rather poorly understood, and protocols always require optimization of transfection parameters. Considering that cationic transfection complexes bind to and thus may up-concentrate on the cell surface, we have now quantitatively compared the cellular activity (in the pLuc705 HeLa cell splice correction system) of PNA antisense oligomers using lipoplex delivery of cholesterol- and bisphosphonate-PNA conjugates, polyplex delivery via a PNA-polyethyleneimine conjugate and CPP delivery via a PNA-octaarginine conjugate upon varying the cell culture transfection volume (and cell density) at fixed PNA concentration. The results show that for all delivery modalities the cellular antisense activity increases (less than proportionally) with increasing volume (in some cases accompanied with increased toxicity), and that this effect is more pronounced at higher cell densities. These results emphasize that transfection efficacy using cationic carriers is critically dependent on parameters such as transfection volume and cell density, and that these must be taken into account when comparing different delivery regimes.
antisense; cellular delivery; lipoplex; octaarginine (CPP); peptide nucleic acid (PNA); polyethyleneimine (PEI)
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.
Steric blocking peptide nucleic acid (PNA) oligonucleotides have been used increasingly for redirecting RNA splicing particularly in therapeutic applications such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Covalent attachment of a cell-penetrating peptide helps to improve cell delivery of PNA. We have used a HeLa pLuc705 cell splicing redirection assay to develop a series of PNA internalization peptides (Pip) conjugated to an 18-mer PNA705 model oligonucleotide with higher activity compared to a PNA705 conjugate with a leading cell-penetrating peptide being developed for therapeutic use, (R-Ahx-R)4. We show that Pip–PNA705 conjugates are internalized in HeLa cells by an energy-dependent mechanism and that the predominant pathway of cell uptake of biologically active conjugate seems to be via clathrin-dependent endocytosis. In a mouse model of DMD, serum-stabilized Pip2a or Pip2b peptides conjugated to a 20-mer PNA (PNADMD) targeting the exon 23 mutation in the dystrophin gene showed strong exon-skipping activity in differentiated mdx mouse myotubes in culture in the absence of an added transfection agent at concentrations where naked PNADMD was inactive. Injection of Pip2a-PNADMD or Pip2b-PNADMD into the tibealis anterior muscles of mdx mice resulted in ∼3-fold higher numbers of dystrophin-positive fibres compared to naked PNADMD or (R-Ahx-R)4-PNADMD.
A series of peptide nucleic acid (PNA) oligomers targeting the mdm2 oncogene mRNA has been tested for the ability to inhibit the growth of JAR cells. The effect of these PNAs on the cells was also reflected in reduced levels of the MDM2 protein and increased levels of the p53 tumor suppressor protein, which is negatively regulated by MDM2. Initially, PNA oligomers were delivered as DNA complexes with lipofectamine, but it was discovered that PNA conjugated to the DNA intercalator 9-aminoacridine (Acr) (Acr–PNA) could be effectively delivered to JAR cells (as well as to HeLa pLuc705 cells) even in the absence of a DNA carrier. Using such lipofectamine-delivered Acr–PNA conjugates, one PNA targeting a cryptic AUG initiation site was identified that at a concentration of 2 μM caused a reduction of MDM2 levels to ∼20% (but no reduction in mdm2 mRNA levels) and a 3-fold increase in p53 levels, whereas a 2-base mismatch control had no such effects. Furthermore, transcriptional activation by p53 was also increased (6-fold), and cell viability was reduced to 80%. Finally, this PNA acted cooperatively with camptothecin treatment both with regard to p53 activity induction as well as cell viability. Using this novel cell delivery system, we have identified a target on the mdm2 mRNA that appears sensitive to antisense inhibition by PNA and therefore could be used as a lead for further development of mdm2-targeted antisense (PNA and other) gene therapeutic anticancer drugs.
Arginine-rich cell-penetrating peptides have found excellent utility in cell and in vivo models for enhancement of delivery of attached charge-neutral PNA or PMO oligonucleotides. We report the synthesis of dendrimeric peptides containing 2- or 4-branched arms each having one or more R-Ahx-R motifs and their disulfide conjugation to a PNA705 splice-redirecting oligonucleotide. Conjugates were assayed in a HeLa pLuc705 cell assay for luciferase up-regulation and splicing redirection. Whereas 8-Arg branched peptide−PNA conjugates showed poor activity compared to a linear (R-Ahx-R)4−PNA conjugate, 2-branched and some 4-branched 12 and 16 Arg peptide−PNA conjugates showed activity similar to that of the corresponding linear peptide−PNA conjugates. Many of the 12- and 16-Arg conjugates retained significant activity in the presence of serum. Evidence showed that biological activity in HeLa pLuc705 cells of the PNA conjugates of branched and linear (R-Ahx-R) peptides is associated with an energy-dependent uptake pathway, predominantly clathrin-dependent, but also with some caveolae dependence.
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
Peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) have a number of attractive features that have made them an ideal choice for antisense and antigene-based tools, probes and drugs, but their poor membrane permeability has limited their application as therapeutic or diagnostic agents. Herein we report a general method for the synthesis of phospholipid-PNAs (LP-PNAs), and compare the effect of non-cleavable lipids and bioreductively cleavable lipids (L and LSS) and phospholipid (LP) on the splice-correcting bioactivity of a PNA bearing the cell penetrating Arg9 group (PNA-R9). While the three constructs show similar and increasing bioactivity at 1–3 μM, the activity of LP-PNA-R9 continues to increase from 4–6 μM while the activity of L-PNA-R9 remains constant and LSS-PNA-R9 decreases rapidly in parallel with their relative cytotoxicity. The activity of both LP-PNA-R9 and L-PNA-R9 were found to dramatically increase with chloroquine, as expected for an endocytotic entry mechanism. Both constructs were also found to have CMC values of 1.0 and 4.5 μM in 150 mM NaCl, pH 7 water, suggesting that micelle formation may play a hitherto unrecognized role in modulating toxicity and/or facilitating endocytosis.
peptide nucleic acid; phospholipid; lipid; cell penetrating peptide; micelle; endocytosis; bioreductively cleavable
Synthetic antisense molecules have an enormous potential for therapeutic applications in humans. The major aim of such strategies is to specifically interfere with gene function, thus modulating cellular pathways according to the therapeutic demands. Among the molecules which can block mRNA function in a sequence specific manner are peptide nucleic acids (PNA). They are highly stable and efficiently and selectively interact with RNA. However, some properties of non-modified aminoethyl glycine PNAs (aegPNA) hamper their in vivo applications.
We generated new backbone modifications of PNAs, which exhibit more hydrophilic properties. When we examined the activity and specificity of these novel phosphonic ester PNAs (pePNA) molecules in medaka (Oryzias latipes) embryos, high solubility and selective binding to mRNA was observed. In particular, mixing of the novel components with aegPNA components resulted in mixed PNAs with superior properties. Injection of mixed PNAs directed against the medaka six3 gene, which is important for eye and brain development, resulted in specific six3 phenotypes.
PNAs are well established as powerful antisense molecules. Modification of the backbone with phosphonic ester side chains further improves their properties and allows the efficient knock down of a single gene in fish embryos.
PNA; Knock down; Medaka; Six3
The trans-activation response (TAR) RNA stem–loop that occurs at the 5′ end of HIV RNA transcripts is an important antiviral target and is the site of interaction of the HIV-1 Tat protein together with host cellular factors. Oligonucleotides and their analogues targeted to TAR are potential antiviral candidates. We have investigated a range of cell penetrating peptide (CPP) conjugates of a 16mer peptide nucleic acid (PNA) analogue targeted to the apical stem–loop of TAR and show that disulfide-linked PNA conjugates of two types of CPP (Transportan or a novel chimeric peptide R6-Penetratin) exhibit dose-dependent inhibition of Tat-dependent trans-activation in a HeLa cell assay when incubated for 24 h. Activity is reached within 6 h if the lysosomotropic reagent chloroquine is co-administered. Fluorescein-labelled stably-linked conjugates of Tat, Transportan or Transportan TP10 with PNA were inactive when delivered alone, but attained trans-activation inhibition in the presence of chloroquine. Confocal microscopy showed that such fluorescently labelled CPP–PNA conjugates were sequestered in endosomal or membrane-bound compartments of HeLa cells, which varied in appearance depending on the CPP type. Co-administration of chloroquine was seen in some cases to release fluorescence from such compartments into the nucleus, but with different patterns depending on the CPP. The results show that CPP–PNA conjugates of different types can inhibit Tat-dependent trans-activation in HeLa cells and have potential for development as antiviral agents. Endosomal or membrane release is a major factor limiting nuclear delivery and trans-activation inhibition.
In an attempt to improve physico-chemical and biological properties of peptide nucleic acids (PNAs), particularly water solubility and cellular uptake, the synthesis of chimeric oligomers consisted of PNA and phosphono-PNA analogues (pPNAs) bearing the four natural nucleobases has been accomplished. To produce these chimeras, pPNA monomers of two types containing N-(2-hydroxyethyl)phosphonoglycine, or N-(2-aminoethyl)phosphonoglycine backbone, were used in conjunction with PNA monomers representing derivatives of N-(2-aminoethyl)glycine, or N-(2-hydroxyethyl)glycine. The oligomers obtained were composed of either PNA and pPNA stretches or alternating PNA and pPNA monomers. The examination of hybridization properties of PNA-pPNA chimeras to DNA and RNA complementary strands in comparison with pure PNAs, and pPNAs as well as DNA-pPNA hybrids and DNA fragments confirmed that these chimeras form stable complexes with complementary DNA and RNA fragments. They were found to be resistant to degradation by nucleases. All these properties together with good solubility in water make PNA-pPNA hybrids promising for further evaluation as potential therapeutic agents.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic pathogen causing severe infections in hospital settings, especially with immune compromised patients, and the increasing prevalence of multidrug resistant strains urges search for new drugs with novel mechanisms of action. In this study we introduce antisense peptide–peptide nucleic acid (PNA) conjugates as antibacterial agents against P. aeruginosa. We have designed and optimized antisense peptide–PNA conjugates targeting the translation initiation region of the ftsZ gene (an essential bacterial gene involved in cell division) or the acpP gene (an essential bacterial gene involved in fatty acid synthesis) of P. aeruginosa (PA01) and characterized these compounds according to their antimicrobial activity and mode of action. Four antisense PNA oligomers conjugated to the H-(R-Ahx-R)4-Ahx-βala or the H-(R-Ahx)6-βala peptide exhibited complete growth inhibition of P. aeruginosa strains PA01, PA14, and LESB58 at 1–2 μM concentrations without any indication of bacterial membrane disruption (even at 20 μM), and resulted in specific reduction of the targeted mRNA levels. One of the four compounds showed clear bactericidal activity while the other significantly reduced bacterial survival. These results open the possibility of development of antisense antibacterials for treatment of Pseudomonas infections.
Two types of oligonucleotide mimics relative to peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) were tested as probes in nucleic acid hybridisation assays based on polyacrylamide technology. One type of mimic oligomers represented a chimera constructed of PNA and phosphono-PNA (pPNA) monomers, and the other one contained pPNA residues alternating with PNA-like monomers on the base of trans -4-hydroxy-L-proline (HypNA). A chemistry providing efficient and specific covalent attachment of these DNA mimics to acrylamide polymers using a convenient approach based on the co-polymerisation of acrylamide and some reactive acrylic acid derivatives with oligomers bearing 5'- or 3'-terminal acrylamide groups has been developed. A comparative study of polyacrylamide conjugates with oligonucleotides and mimic oligomers demonstrated the suitability and high potential of PNA-pPNA and HypNA-pPNA chimeras as sequence-specific probes in capture and detection of target nucleic acid fragments to serve current forms of DNA arrays.
Double helical RNA has become an attractive target for molecular recognition because many non-coding RNAs play important roles in control of gene expression. Recently, we discovered that short peptide nucleic acids (PNA) bind strongly and sequence selectively to a homopurine tract of double helical RNA via triple helix formation. Herein we tested if the molecular recognition of RNA can be enhanced by α-guanidine modification of PNA. Our study was motivated by the discovery of Ly and co-workers that the guanidine modification greatly enhances the cellular delivery of PNA. Isothermal titration calorimetry showed that the guanidine-modified PNA (GPNA) had reduced affinity and sequence selectivity for triple helical recognition of RNA. The data suggested that in contrast to unmodified PNA, which formed a 1:1 PNA-RNA triple helix, GPNA preferred a 2:1 GPNA-RNA triplex-invasion complex. Nevertheless, promising results were obtained for recognition of biologically relevant double helical RNA. Consistent with enhanced strand invasion ability, GPNA derived from D-arginine recognized the transactivation response element (TAR) of HIV-1 with high affinity and sequence selectivity, presumably via Watson-Crick duplex formation. On the other hand, strong and sequence selective triple helices were formed by unmodified and nucelobase-modified PNAs and the purine rich strand of bacterial A-site. These results suggest that appropriate chemical modifications of PNA may enhance molecular recognition of complex non-coding RNAs.
With the aim of developing a general and straightforward procedure for the intracellular delivery of naked peptide nucleic acids (PNAs), we designed an intracellularly biodegradable triphenylphosphonium (TPP) cation based transporter system. In this system, TPP is linked, via a biolabile disulfide bridge, to an activated mercaptoethoxycarbonyl moiety, allowing its direct coupling to the N-terminal extremity of a free PNA through a carbamate bond. We found that such TPP-PNA-carbamate conjugates were highly stable in a cell culture medium containing fetal calf serum. In a glutathione-containing medium mimicking the cytosol, the conjugates were rapidly degraded into an unstable intermediate, which spontaneously decomposed, releasing the free PNA. Using a fluorescence-labeled PNA–TPP conjugate, we demonstrated that conjugates were taken up by cells. Efficient cellular uptake and release of the PNA into the cytosol was further confirmed by the anti-HIV activity measured for the TPP-conjugate of a 16-mer PNA targeting the TAR region of the HIV-1 genome. This conjugate exhibited an IC50 value of 1 μM, while the free 16-mer PNA did not inhibit replication of HIV in the same cellular test.
Sequence-specific interference with the nuclear pre-mRNA splicing machinery has received increased attention as an analytical tool and for development of therapeutics. It requires sequence-specific and high affinity binding of RNaseH-incompetent DNA mimics to pre-mRNA. Peptide nucleic acids (PNA) or phosphoramidate morpholino oligonucleotides (PMO) are particularly suited as steric block oligonucleotides in this respect. However, splicing correction by PNA or PMO conjugated to cell penetrating peptides (CPP), such as Tat or Penetratin, has required high concentrations (5–10 μM) of such conjugates, unless an endosomolytic agent was added to increase escape from endocytic vesicles. We have focused on the modification of existing CPPs to search for peptides able to deliver more efficiently splice correcting PNA or PMO to the nucleus in the absence of endosomolytic agents. We describe here R6-Penetratin (in which arginine-residues were added to the N-terminus of Penetratin) as the most active of all CPPs tested so far in a splicing correction assay in which masking of a cryptic splice site allows expression of a luciferase reporter gene. Efficient and sequence-specific correction occurs at 1 μM concentration of the R6Pen–PNA705 conjugate as monitored by luciferase luminescence and by RT-PCR. Some aspects of the R6Pen–PNA705 structure–function relationship have also been evaluated.
Electroporation is potentially a very powerful technique for both in vitro cellular and in vivo drug delivery, particularly relating to oligonucleotides and their analogs for genetic therapy. Using a sensitive and quantitative HeLa cell luciferase RNA interference mRNA splice correction assay with a functional luciferase readout, we demonstrate that parameters such as peptide nucleic acid (PNA) charge and the method of electroporation have dramatic influence on the efficiency of productive delivery. In a suspended cell electroporation system (cuvettes), a positively charged PNA (+8) was most efficiently transferred, whereas charge neutral PNA was more effective in a microtiter plate electrotransfer system for monolayer cells. Surprisingly, a negatively charged (−23) PNA did not show appreciable activity in either system. Findings from the functional assay were corroborated by pulse parameter variations, polymerase chain reaction, and confocal microscopy. In conclusion, we have found that the charge of PNA and electroporation system combination greatly influences the transfer efficiency, thereby illustrating the complexity of the electroporation mechanism.
A series of 18-mer peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) targeted against micro-RNA miR-210 was synthesised and tested in a cellular system. Unmodified PNAs, R8-conjugated PNAs and modified PNAs containing eight arginine residues on the backbone, either as C2-modified (R) or C5-modified (S) monomers, all with the same sequence, were compared. Two different models were used for the modified PNAs: one with alternated chiral and achiral monomers and one with a stretch of chiral monomers at the N terminus. The melting temperatures of these derivatives were found to be extremely high and 5 m urea was used to assess differences between the different structures. FACS analysis and qRT-PCR on K562 chronic myelogenous leukaemic cells indicated that arginine-conjugated and backbone-modified PNAs display good cellular uptake, with best performances for the C2-modified series. Resistance to enzymatic degradation was found to be higher for the backbone-modified PNAs, thus enhancing the advantage of using these derivatives rather than conjugated PNAs in the cells in serum, and this effect is magnified in the presence of peptidases such as trypsin. Inhibition of miR-210 activity led to changes in the erythroid differentiation pathway, which were more evident in mithramycin-treated cells. Interestingly, the anti-miR activities differed with use of different PNAs, thus suggesting a role of the substituents not only in the cellular uptake, but also in the mechanism of miR recognition and inactivation. This is the first report relating to the use of backbone-modified PNAs as anti-miR agents. The results clearly indicate that backbone-modified PNAs are good candidates for the development of very efficient drugs based on anti-miR activity, due to their enhanced bioavailabilities, and that overall anti-miR performance is a combination of cellular uptake and RNA binding.
cell permeation; cellular differentiation; chiral PNA; microRNA; peptide nucleic acids; RNA
Klebsiella pneumoniae causes common and severe hospital- and community-acquired infections with a high incidence of multidrug resistance. The emergence and spread of β-lactamase-producing K. pneumoniae strains highlight the need to develop new therapeutic strategies. In this study, we developed antisense peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) conjugated to the (KFF)3K peptide and investigated whether they could mediate gene-specific antisense effects in K. pneumoniae. No outer membrane permeabilization was observed with antisense PNAs when used alone. Antisense peptide-PNAs targeted at two essential genes, gyrA and ompA, were found to be growth inhibitory at concentrations of 20 μM and 40 μM, respectively. Mismatched antisense peptide-PNAs with sequence variations of the gyrA and ompA genes when used as controls were not growth inhibitory. Bactericidal effects exerted by peptide-anti-gyrA PNA and peptide-anti-ompA PNA on cells were observed within 6 h of treatment. The antisense peptide-PNAs specifically inhibited expression of DNA gyrase subunit A and OmpA from the respective targeted genes in a dose-dependent manner. Both antisense peptide-PNAs cured IMR90 cell cultures that were infected with K. pneumoniae (104 CFU) in a dose-dependent manner without any noticeable toxicity to the human cells.
The antisense activity of oligomers with 2′-O-methyl (2′-O-Me) phosphorothioate, 2′-O-methoxyethyl (2′-O-MOE) phosphorothioate, morpholino and peptide nucleic acid (PNA) backbones was investigated using a splicing assay in which the modified oligonucleotides blocked aberrant and restored correct splicing of modified enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) precursor to mRNA (pre-mRNA), generating properly translated EGFP. In this approach, antisense activity of each oligomer was directly proportional to up-regulation of the EGFP reporter. This provided a positive, quantitative readout for sequence-specific antisense effects of the oligomers in the nuclei of individual cells. Nuclear localization of fluorescent labeled oligomers confirmed validity of the functional assay. The results showed that the free uptake and the antisense efficacy of neutral morpholino derivatives and cationic PNA were much higher than that of negatively charged 2′-O-Me and 2′-O-MOE congeners. The effects of the PNA oligomers were observed to be dependent on the number of l-lysine (Lys) residues at the C-terminus. The experiments suggest that the PNA containing Lys was taken up by a mechanism similar to that of cell-penetrating homeodomain proteins and that the Lys tail enhanced intracellular accumulation of PNA oligomer without affecting its ability to reach and hybridize to the target sequence.
We investigated the capability of antisense peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) conjugated to the (KFF)3K cell-penetrating peptide to target possible essential genes (ligA, rpoA, rpoD, engA, tsf, and kdtA) in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and inhibit bacterial growth in vitro and in cell culture. All targeted PNA-based gene inhibition has shown great potency in gene expression inhibition in a sequence-specific and dose-dependent manner at micromolar concentrations. Among tested PNAs, the anti-rpoA and -rpoD PNAs showed the greatest potency.
To be effective, antisense molecules should be stable in biological fluids, non-toxic, form stable and specific duplexes with target RNAs and readily penetrate through cell membranes without non-specific effects on cell function. We report herein that negatively charged DNA mimics representing chiral analogues of peptide nucleic acids with a constrained trans-4-hydroxy-N-acetylpyrrolidine-2-phosphonate backbone (pHypNAs) meet these criteria. To demonstrate this, we compared silencing potency of these compounds with that of previously evaluated as efficient gene knockdown molecules hetero-oligomers consisting of alternating phosphono-PNA monomers and PNA-like monomers based on trans-4-hydroxy-L-proline (HypNA-pPNAs). Antisense potential of pHypNA mimics was confirmed in a cell-free translation assay with firefly luciferase as well as in a living cell assay with green fluorescent protein. In both cases, the pHypNA antisense oligomers provided a specific knockdown of a target protein production. Confocal microscopy showed that pHypNAs, when transfected into living cells, demonstrated efficient cellular uptake with distribution in the cytosol and nucleus. Also, the high potency of pHypNAs for down-regulation of Ras-like GTPase Ras-dva in Xenopus embryos was demonstrated in comparison with phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers. Therefore, our data suggest that pHypNAs are novel antisense agents with potential widespread in vitro and in vivo applications in basic research involving live cells and intact organisms.
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.
Peptide nucleic acids (PNA) mimic DNA and RNA by forming complementary duplex structures following Watson-Crick base pairing. A set of reporter compounds that bind to DNA by intercalation are known, but these compounds do not intercalate in PNA/DNA hybrid duplexes. Analysis of the hybrid PNA duplexes requires development of reporter compounds that probe their chemical and physical properties. We prepared a series of anthraquinone (AQ) derivatives that are linked to internal positions of a PNA oligomer. These are the first non-nucleobase functional groups that have been incorporated into a PNA. The resulting PNA(AQ) conjugates form stable hybrids with complementary DNA oligomers. We find that when the AQ groups are covalently bound to PNA that they stabilize the hybrid duplex and are, at least partially, intercalated.
Gene correction activation effects of a small series of triplex forming peptide nucleic acid (PNA) covalently conjugated to the DNA interacting ligands psoralen, chlorambucil and camptothecin targeted proximal to a stop codon mutation in an EGFP reporter gene were studied. A 15-mer homopyrimidine PNA conjugated to the topoisomerase I inhibitor camptothecin was found to increase the frequency of repair domain mediated gene correctional events of the EGFP reporter in an in vitro HeLa cell nuclear extract assay, whereas PNA psoralen or chlorambucil conjugates both of which form covalent and also interstrand crosslinked adducts with dsDNA dramatically decreased the frequency of targeted repair/correction. The PNA conjugates were also studied in mammalian cell lines upon transfection of PNA bound EGFP reporter vector and scoring repair of the EGFP gene by FACS analysis of functional EGFP expression. Consistent with the extract experiments, treatment with adduct forming PNA conjugates (psoralen and chlorambucil) resulted in a decrease in background correction frequencies in transiently transfected cells, whereas unmodified PNA or the PNA-camptothecin conjugate had little or no effect. These results suggest that simple triplex forming PNAs have little effect on proximal gene correctional events whereas PNA conjugates capable of forming DNA adducts and interstrand crosslinks are strong inhibitors. Most interestingly the PNA conjugated to the topoisomerase inhibitor, camptothecin enhanced repair in nuclear extract. Thus the effects and use of camptothecin conjugates in gene targeted repair merit further studies.
PNA; triplex; gene correction; repair; DNA modification
Peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) are uncharged analogs of DNA and RNA in which the ribose-phosphate backbone is substituted by a backbone held together by amide bonds. PNAs are interesting as models of alternative genetic systems because they form potentially informational base paired helical structures. A PNA C10 oligomer has been shown to act as template for efficient formation of oligoguanylates from activated guanosine ribonucleotides. In a previous paper we used heterosequences of DNA as templates in sequence-dependent polymerization of PNA dimers. In this paper we show that information can be transferred from PNA to RNA. We describe the reactions of activated mononucleotides on heterosequences of PNA. Adenylic, cytidylic and guanylic acids were incorporated into the products opposite their complement on PNA, although less efficiently than on DNA templates.