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1.  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
2.  Non-Watson–Crick interactions between PNA and DNA inhibit the ATPase activity of bacteriophage T4 Dda helicase 
Nucleic Acids Research  2002;30(4):950-957.
Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) is a DNA mimic in which the nucleobases are linked by an N-(2-aminoethyl) glycine backbone. Here we report that PNA can interact with single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) in a non-sequence-specific fashion. We observed that a 15mer PNA inhibited the ssDNA-stimulated ATPase activity of a bacteriophage T4 helicase, Dda. Surprisingly, when a fluorescein-labeled 15mer PNA was used in binding studies no interaction was observed between PNA and Dda. However, fluorescence polarization did reveal non-sequence-specific interactions between PNA and ssDNA. Thus, the inhibition of ATPase activity of Dda appears to result from depletion of the available ssDNA due to non-Watson–Crick binding of PNA to ssDNA. Inhibition of the ssDNA-stimulated ATPase activity was observed for several PNAs of varying length and sequence. To study the basis for this phenomenon, we examined self-aggregation by PNAs. The 15mer PNA readily self-aggregates to the point of precipitation. Since PNAs are hydrophobic, they aggregate more than DNA or RNA, making the study of this phenomenon essential for understanding the properties of PNA. Non-sequence-specific interactions between PNA and ssDNA were observed at moderate concentrations of PNA, suggesting that such interactions should be considered for antisense and antigene applications.
PMCID: PMC100347  PMID: 11842106
3.  Synthesis and evaluation of some properties of chimeric oligomers containing PNA and phosphono-PNA residues. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1998;26(2):566-575.
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.
PMCID: PMC147292  PMID: 9421517
4.  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
5.  Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) binding and its effect on in vitro transcription in Friedreich’s ataxia triplet repeats 
Molecular carcinogenesis  2009;48(4):299-308.
Peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) are DNA mimics in which peptide-like linkages are substituted for the phosphodiester backbone. Homopyrimidine PNAs can invade double-stranded DNA containing the homologous sequence by displacing the homopyrimidine strand from the DNA duplex and forming a PNA/DNA/PNA triplex with the complementary homopurine strand. Among biologically interesting targets for triplex-forming PNA are (GAA/CTT)n repeats. Expansion of these repeats results in partial inhibition of transcription in the frataxin gene, 5causing Friedreich’s ataxia. We have studied PNA binding and its effect on T7 RNA polymerase transcription in vitro for short repeats (n=3) and for long repeats (n=39), placed in both possible orientations relative to the T7 promoter such that either the GAA-strand, or the CTT-strand serves as the template for transcription. In all cases PNA bound specifically and efficiently to its target sequence. For the short insert, PNA binding to the template strand caused partial transcription blockage with well-defined sites of RNA product truncation in the region of the PNA-binding sequence, whereas binding to the non-template strand did not block transcription. However, PNA binding to long repeats, whether in the template or the non-template strand, resulted in a dramatic reduction of the amount of full-length transcription product, although in the case of the non-template strand there were no predominant truncation sites. Biological implications of these results are discussed.
PMCID: PMC2664860  PMID: 19306309
6.  Site-directed gene mutation at mixed sequence targets by psoralen-conjugated pseudo-complementary peptide nucleic acids 
Nucleic Acids Research  2007;35(22):7604-7613.
Sequence-specific DNA-binding molecules such as triple helix-forming oligonucleotides (TFOs) provide a means for inducing site-specific mutagenesis and recombination at chromosomal sites in mammalian cells. However, the utility of TFOs is limited by the requirement for homopurine stretches in the target duplex DNA. Here, we report the use of pseudo-complementary peptide nucleic acids (pcPNAs) for intracellular gene targeting at mixed sequence sites. Due to steric hindrance, pcPNAs are unable to form pcPNA–pcPNA duplexes but can bind to complementary DNA sequences by Watson–Crick pairing via double duplex-invasion complex formation. We show that psoralen-conjugated pcPNAs can deliver site-specific photoadducts and mediate targeted gene modification within both episomal and chromosomal DNA in mammalian cells without detectable off-target effects. Most of the induced psoralen-pcPNA mutations were single-base substitutions and deletions at the predicted pcPNA-binding sites. The pcPNA-directed mutagenesis was found to be dependent on PNA concentration and UVA dose and required matched pairs of pcPNAs. Neither of the individual pcPNAs alone had any effect nor did complementary PNA pairs of the same sequence. These results identify pcPNAs as new tools for site-specific gene modification in mammalian cells without purine sequence restriction, thereby providing a general strategy for designing gene targeting molecules.
PMCID: PMC2190703  PMID: 17977869
7.  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
8.  Side chain modified peptide nucleic acids (PNA) for knock-down of six3 in medaka embryos 
BMC Biotechnology  2012;12:50.
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.
PMCID: PMC3469332  PMID: 22901024
PNA; Knock down; Medaka; Six3
9.  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
10.  DNA assembly using bis-peptide nucleic acids (bisPNAs) 
Nucleic Acids Research  2002;30(13):2782-2789.
DNA nanostructures are ordered oligonucleotide arrangements that have applications for DNA computers, crystallography, diagnostics and material sciences. Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) is a DNA/RNA mimic that offers many advantages for hybridization, but its potential for application in the field of DNA nanotechnology has yet to be thoroughly examined. We report the synthesis and characterization of tethered PNA molecules (bisPNAs) designed to assemble two individual DNA molecules through Watson–Crick base pairing. The spacer regions linking the PNAs were varied in length and contained amino acids with different electrostatic properties. We observed that bisPNAs effectively assembled oligonucleotides that were either the exact length of the PNA or that contained overhanging regions that projected outwards. In contrast, DNA assembly was much less efficient if the oligonucleotides contained overhanging regions that projected inwards. Surprisingly, the length of the spacer region between the PNA sequences did not greatly affect the efficiency of DNA assembly. Reasons for inefficient assembly of inward projecting DNA oligonucleotides include non-sequence-specific intramolecular interactions between the overhanging region of the bisPNA and steric conflicts that complicate simultaneous binding of two inward projecting strands. These results suggest that bisPNA molecules can be used for self-assembling DNA nanostructures provided that the arrangement of the hybridizing DNA oligonucleotides does not interfere with simultaneous hybridization to the bisPNA molecule.
PMCID: PMC117044  PMID: 12087161
11.  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
12.  Inhibition of PNA triplex formation by N4-benzoylated cytosine. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1998;26(11):2735-2739.
The synthesis of N-((N4-(benzoyl)cytosine-1-yl)acetyl)- N -(2-Boc-aminoethyl)glycine (CBz) and the incorporation of this monomer into PNA oligomers are described. A single CBzresidue within a 10mer homopyrimidine PNA is capable of switching the preferred binding mode from a parallel to an antiparallel orientation when targeting a deoxyribonucleotide sequence at neutral pH. The resulting complex has a thermal stability equal to that of the corresponding PNA-DNA duplex, indicative of a strong destabilization of Hoogsteen strand PNA binding due to steric interference by the benzoyl moieties. Accordingly, incorporation of the CBz residue into linked PNAs (bis-PNAs) results in greatly reduced thermal stability of the formed PNA:DNA complexes. Thus, incorporation of the CBz monomer could eliminate the stability bias of triplex-forming sequences in PNA used in hybridization arrays and combinatorial library formats. Furthermore, it is shown that the benzoyl moiety does not severely interfere with Watson-Crick hydrogen bonding, thereby presenting an interesting route for novel cytosine modifications.
PMCID: PMC147602  PMID: 9592162
13.  Targeting peptide nucleic acid (PNA) oligomers to mitochondria within cells by conjugation to lipophilic cations: implications for mitochondrial DNA replication, expression and disease 
Nucleic Acids Research  2001;29(9):1852-1863.
The selective manipulation of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) replication and expression within mammalian cells has proven difficult. One promising approach is to use peptide nucleic acid (PNA) oligomers, nucleic acid analogues that bind selectively to complementary DNA or RNA sequences inhibiting replication and translation. However, the potential of PNAs is restricted by the difficulties of delivering them to mitochondria within cells. To overcome this problem we conjugated a PNA 11mer to a lipophilic phosphonium cation. Such cations are taken up by mitochondria through the lipid bilayer driven by the membrane potential across the inner membrane. As anticipated, phosphonium–PNA (ph–PNA) conjugates of 3.4–4 kDa were imported into both isolated mitochondria and mitochondria within human cells in culture. This was confirmed by using an ion-selective electrode to measure uptake of the ph–PNA conjugates; by cell fractionation in conjunction with immunoblotting; by confocal microscopy; by immunogold-electron microscopy; and by crosslinking ph–PNA conjugates to mitochondrial matrix proteins. In all cases dissipating the mitochondrial membrane potential with an uncoupler prevented ph–PNA uptake. The ph–PNA conjugate selectively inhibited the in vitro replication of DNA containing the A8344G point mutation that causes the human mtDNA disease ‘myoclonic epilepsy and ragged red fibres’ (MERRF) but not the wild-type sequence that differs at a single nucleotide position. Therefore these modified PNA oligomers retain their selective binding to DNA and the lipophilic cation delivers them to mitochondria within cells. When MERRF cells were incubated with the ph–PNA conjugate the ratio of MERRF to wild-type mtDNA was unaffected, even though the ph–PNA content of the mitochondria was sufficient to inhibit MERRF mtDNA replication in a cell-free system. This unexpected finding suggests that nucleic acid derivatives cannot bind their complementary sequences during mtDNA replication. In summary, we have developed a new strategy for targeting PNA oligomers to mitochondria and used it to determine the effects of PNA on mutated mtDNA replication in cells. This work presents new approaches for the manipulation of mtDNA replication and expression, and will assist in the development of therapies for mtDNA diseases.
PMCID: PMC37250  PMID: 11328868
14.  Base pair opening kinetics study of the aegPNA:DNA hydrid duplex containing a site-specific GNA-like chiral PNA monomer 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(16):7329-7335.
Peptide nucleic acids (PNA) are one of the most widely used synthetic DNA mimics where the four bases are attached to a N-(2-aminoethyl)glycine (aeg) backbone instead of the negative-charged phosphate backbone in DNA. We have developed a chimeric PNA (chiPNA), in which a chiral GNA-like γ3T monomer is incorporated into aegPNA backbone. The base pair opening kinetics of the aegPNA:DNA and chiPNA:DNA hybrid duplexes were studied by NMR hydrogen exchange experiments. This study revealed that the aegPNA:DNA hybrid is much more stable duplex and is less dynamic compared to DNA duplex, meaning that base pairs are opened and reclosed much more slowly. The site-specific incorporation of γ3T monomer in the aegPNA:DNA hybrid can destabilize a specific base pair and its neighbors, maintaining the thermal stabilities and dynamic properties of other base pairs. Our hydrogen exchange study firstly revealed the unique kinetic features of base pairs in the aegPNA:DNA and chiPNA:DNA hybrids, which will provide an insight into the development of methodology for specific DNA recognition using PNA fragments.
PMCID: PMC3167616  PMID: 21586589
15.  Information transfer from peptide nucleic acids to RNA by template-directed syntheses. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1997;25(23):4797-4802.
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.
PMCID: PMC147122  PMID: 9365259
16.  Inhibiting Gene Expression with Peptide Nucleic Acid (PNA)–Peptide Conjugates that Target Chromosomal DNA 
Biochemistry  2007;46(25):7581-7589.
Peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) are a nonionic DNA/RNA mimic that can recognize complementary sequences by Watson–Crick base–pairing. The neutral PNA backbone facilitates recognition of duplex DNA by strand invasion, suggesting that antigene PNAs (agPNAs) can be important tools for exploring the structure and function of chromosomal DNA inside cells. However, before agPNAs can enter wide use it will be necessary to develop straightforward strategies for introducing them into cells. Here we demonstrate that agPNA–peptide conjugates can target promoter DNA and block progesterone receptor (PR) gene expression inside cells. Thirty–six agPNA–peptide conjugates were synthesized and tested. We observed inhibition of gene expression using cationic peptides containing either arginine or lysine residues, with eight or more cationic amino acids being preferred. Both thirteen and nineteen base agPNA-peptide conjugates were inhibitory. Inhibition was observed in human cancer cell lines expressing either high or low levels of progesterone receptor. Modification of agPNA–peptide conjugates with hydrophobic amino acids or small molecule hydrophobic moities yielded improved potency. Inhibition by agPNAs did not require cationic lipid or any other additive, but adding agents to cell growth media that promote endosomal release caused modest increases in agPNA potency. These data demonstrate that chromosomal DNA is accessible to agPNA–peptide conjugates and that chemical modifications can improve potency.
PMCID: PMC2564818  PMID: 17536840
17.  Cellular Uptakes, Biostabilities and Anti-miR-210 Activities of Chiral Arginine-PNAs in Leukaemic K562 Cells 
Chembiochem  2012;13(9):1327-1337.
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.
PMCID: PMC3401907  PMID: 22639449
cell permeation; cellular differentiation; chiral PNA; microRNA; peptide nucleic acids; RNA
18.  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
19.  Peptide nucleic acids inhibit growth of Brucella suis in pure culture and in infected murine macrophages 
International journal of antimicrobial agents  2013;41(4):10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2012.11.017.
Peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) are single-stranded, synthetic nucleic acid analogues containing a pseudopeptide backbone in place of the phosphodiester sugar–phosphate. When PNAs are covalently linked to cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) they readily penetrate the bacterial cell envelope, inhibit expression of targeted genes and cause growth inhibition both of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. However, the effectiveness of PNAs against Brucella, a facultative intracellular bacterial pathogen, was unknown. The susceptibility of a virulent Brucella suis strain to a variety of PNAs was assessed in pure culture as well as in murine macrophages. The studies showed that some of the PNAs targeted to Brucella genes involved in DNA (polA, dnaG, gyrA), RNA (rpoB), cell envelope (asd), fatty acid (kdtA, acpP) and protein (tsf) synthesis inhibit the growth of B. suis in culture and in macrophages after 24 h of treatment. PNA treatment inhibited Brucella growth by interfering with gene expression in a sequence-specific and dose-dependent manner at micromolar concentrations. The most effective PNA in broth culture was that targeting polA at ca. 12 μM. In contrast, in B. suis-infected macrophages, the most effective PNAs were those targeting asd and dnaG at 30 μM; both of these PNAs had little inhibitory effect on Brucella in broth culture. The polA PNA that inhibits wild-type B. suis also inhibits the growth of wild-type Brucella melitensis 16M and Brucella abortus 2308 in culture. This study reveals the potential usefulness of antisense PNA constructs as novel therapeutic agents against intracellular Brucella.
PMCID: PMC3834731  PMID: 23305655
Peptide nucleic acid (PNA); Brucella; Antibiotic resistance; Antisense; Murine macrophage
20.  Interactions of DNA binding ligands with PNA-DNA hybrids. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1994;22(24):5371-5377.
The interactions of two representative mixed-sequence (one with an AT-stretch) PNA-DNA duplexes (10 or 15 base-pairs) and a PNA2/DNA triplex with the DNA binding reagents distamycin A, 4',6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI), ethidium bromide, 8-methoxy-psoralen and the delta and lambda enantiomers of Ru(phen)2-dppz2+ have been investigated using optical spectroscopic methods. The behaviour of these reagents versus two PNA-PNA duplexes has also been investigated. With triple helical poly(dA)/(H-T10-Lys-NH2)2 no significant intercalative binding was detected for any of the DNA intercalators, whereas DAPI, a DNA minor groove binder, was found to exhibit a circular dichroism with a positive sign and amplitude consistent with minor groove binding. Similarly, a PNA-DNA duplex containing a central AATA motif, a typical minor groove binding site for the DNA minor groove binders distamycin A and DAPI, showed binding for both of these drugs, though with strongly reduced affinity. No important interactions were found for any of the ligands with a PNA-DNA duplex consisting of a ten base-pair mixed purine-pyrimidine sequence with only two AT base-pairs in the centre. Nor did any of the ligands show any detectable binding to the PNA-PNA duplexes (one containing an AATT motif). Various PNA derivatives with extentions of the backbone, believed to increase the flexibility of the duplex to opening of an intercalation slot, were tested for intercalation of ethidium bromide or 8-methoxypsoralen into the mixed sequence PNA-DNA duplex, however, without any observation of improved binding. The importance of the ionic contribution of the deoxyribose phosphate backbone, versus interactions with the nucleobases, for drug binding to DNA is discussed in the light of these findings.
PMCID: PMC332085  PMID: 7816628
21.  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
22.  Synthesis and Characterization of Conformationally-Preorganized, MiniPEG-Containing γPNAs with Superior Hybridization Properties and Water Solubility 
The Journal of organic chemistry  2011;76(14):5614-5627.
Developed in the early 1990's, PNA has emerged as a promising class of nucleic acid mimic because of its strong binding affinity and sequence selectivity towards DNA and RNA, and resistance to enzymatic degradation by proteases and nucleases; however, the main drawbacks, as compared to other classes of oligonucleotides, are water solubility and biocompatibility. Herein we show that installation of a relatively small, hydrophilic (R)-diethylene glycol (`miniPEG') unit at the γ-backbone transforms a randomly-folded PNA into a right-handed helix. Synthesis of optically pure R-MPγPNA monomers is described, which can be accomplished in a few simple steps from a commercially available and relatively cheap Boc-L-serine. Once synthesized, R-MPγPNA oligomers are preorganized into a right-handed helix and hybridize to DNA and RNA with greater affinity and sequence selectivity, and are more water soluble and less aggregating than the parental PNA oligomers. The results presented herein have important implications for the future design and application of PNA in biology, biotechnology and medicine, as well as in other disciplines including drug discovery and molecular engineering.
PMCID: PMC3175361  PMID: 21619025
23.  Recent Advances in Chemical Modification of Peptide Nucleic Acids 
Journal of Nucleic Acids  2012;2012:518162.
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.
PMCID: PMC3443988  PMID: 22991652
24.  Transcription-mediated binding of peptide nucleic acid (PNA) to double-stranded DNA: sequence-specific suicide transcription. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1996;24(3):458-463.
Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) forms sequence-specific (PNA)2/DNA triplexes with one strand of double-stranded DNA by strand invasion. When formed with the template strand of DNA such a (PNA)2/DNA triplex can arrest transcription elongation in vitro and can thus act as an anti-gene agent. One of the major obstacles to applying PNA as an anti-gene agent in vivo is that PNA strand invasion occurs at a very slow rate under moderate salt conditions. In the present study we show that transcription can increase the rate of sequence-specific PNA binding dramatically. Such transcription-mediated PNA binding occurs three times as efficiently when the PNA target is situated on the non- template strand as compared with the template strand. Since transcription can mediate template strand-associated (PNA)2/DNA complexes which arrest further elongation, the action of RNA polymerase results in repression of its own activity, i.e. suicide transcription. These findings are highly relevant for the possible future use of PNA as an anti-gene agent.
PMCID: PMC145648  PMID: 8602358
25.  Targeted correction of a thalassemia-associated β-globin mutation induced by pseudo-complementary peptide nucleic acids 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;37(11):3635-3644.
β-Thalassemia is a genetic disorder caused by mutations in the β-globin gene. Triplex-forming oligonucleotides and triplex-forming peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) have been shown to stimulate recombination in mammalian cells via site-specific binding and creation of altered helical structures that provoke DNA repair. However, the use of these molecules for gene targeting requires homopurine tracts to facilitate triple helix formation. Alternatively, to achieve binding to mixed-sequence target sites for the induced gene correction, we have used pseudo-complementary PNAs (pcPNAs). Due to steric hindrance, pcPNAs are unable to form pcPNA–pcPNA duplexes but can bind to complementary DNA sequences via double duplex-invasion complexes. We demonstrate here that pcPNAs, when co-transfected with donor DNA fragments, can promote single base pair modification at the start of the second intron of the beta-globin gene. This was detected by the restoration of proper splicing of transcripts produced from a green fluorescent protein-beta globin fusion gene. We also demonstrate that pcPNAs are effective in stimulating recombination in human fibroblast cells in a manner dependent on the nucleotide excision repair factor, XPA. These results suggest that pcPNAs can be effective tools to induce heritable, site-specific modification of disease-related genes in human cells without purine sequence restriction.
PMCID: PMC2699504  PMID: 19364810

Results 1-25 (411009)