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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.  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
3.  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
4.  End invasion of peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) with mixed-base composition into linear DNA duplexes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(17):e146.
Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) is a synthetic DNA mimic with valuable properties and a rapidly growing scope of applications. With the exception of recently introduced pseudocomplementary PNAs, binding of common PNA oligomers to target sites located inside linear double-stranded DNAs (dsDNAs) is essentially restricted to homopurine–homopyrimidine sequence motifs, which significantly hampers some of the PNA applications. Here, we suggest an approach to bypass this limitation of common PNAs. We demonstrate that PNA with mixed composition of ordinary nucleobases is capable of sequence-specific targeting of complementary dsDNA sites if they are located at the very termini of DNA duplex. We then show that such targeting makes it possible to perform capturing of designated dsDNA fragments via the DNA-bound biotinylated PNA as well as to signal the presence of a specific dsDNA sequence, in the case a PNA beacon is employed. We also examine the PNA–DNA conjugate and prove that it can initiate the primer-extension reaction starting from the duplex DNA termini when a DNA polymerase with the strand-displacement ability is used. We thus conclude that recognition of duplex DNA by mixed-base PNAs via the end invasion has a promising potential for site-specific and sequence-unrestricted DNA manipulation and detection.
PMCID: PMC1243805  PMID: 16204449
5.  The Crystal Structure of Non-Modified and Bipyridine-Modified PNA Duplexes 
Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) is a synthetic analogue of DNA that commonly has an N-aminoethlyl-glycine backbone. The crystal structure of two PNA duplexes, one containing eight standard nucleobase pairs (GGCATCGG)2 (pdb: 3MBS), and the other containing the same nucleobase pairs and a central pair of bipyridine ligands (pdb: 3MBU), has been solved with a resolution of 1.2 Å and 1.05 Å, respectively. The non-modified PNA duplex adopts a P-type helical structure s i m i l a r t o that of previously characterized PNAs. The atomic-level resolution of the structures allowed us to observe for the first time specific modes of interaction between the terminal lysines of the PNA and the backbone and nucleobases situated in the vicinity of the lysines, which are considered an important factor in the induction of a preferred handedness in PNA duplexes. These results support the notion that while PNA typically adopts a P-type helical structure, its flexibility is relatively high. For example, the base pair rise in the bipyridine-containing PNA is the largest measured to date in a PNA homoduplex. The two bipyridines are bulged out of the duplex and are aligned parallel to the minor groove of the PNA. In the case of the bipyridine-containing PNA, two bipyridines from adjacent PNA duplexes form a π-stacked pair that relates the duplexes within the crystal. The bulging out of the bipyridines causes bending of the PNA duplex, which is in contrast to the structure previously reported for biphenyl-modified DNA duplexes in solution, where the biphenyls are π-stacking with adjacent nucleobase pairs and adopt an intrahelical geometry [Johar et al., Chem. Eur. J., 2008, 14, 2080]. This difference shows that relatively small perturbations can significantly impact the relative position of nucleobase analogues in nucleic acid duplexes.
PMCID: PMC3194003  PMID: 20859960
PNA structure; X-ray crystallography; nucleic acids; bipyridine; nucleic acid bending
6.  Targeted gene correction using psoralen, chlorambucil and camptothecin conjugates of triplex forming peptide nucleic acid (PNA) 
Artificial DNA, PNA & XNA  2011;2(1):23-32.
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.
PMCID: PMC3116579  PMID: 21686249
PNA; triplex; gene correction; repair; DNA modification
7.  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
8.  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
9.  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
10.  PNA microarrays for hybridisation of unlabelled DNA samples 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(19):e119.
Several strategies have been developed for the production of peptide nucleic acid (PNA) microarrays by parallel probe synthesis and selective coupling of full-length molecules. Such microarrays were used for direct detection of the hybridisation of unlabelled DNA by time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry. PNAs were synthesised by an automated process on filter-bottom microtitre plates. The resulting molecules were released from the solid support and attached without any purification to microarray surfaces via the terminal amino group itself or via modifications, which had been chemically introduced during synthesis. Thus, only full-length PNA oligomers were attached whereas truncated molecules, produced during synthesis because of incomplete condensation reactions, did not bind. Different surface chemistries and fitting modifications of the PNA terminus were tested. For an examination of coupling selectivity, bound PNAs were cleaved off microarray surfaces and analysed by MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry. Additionally, hybridisation experiments were performed to compare the attachment chemistries, with fully acetylated PNAs spotted as controls. Upon hybridisation of unlabelled DNA to such microarrays, binding events could be detected by visualisation of phosphates, which are an integral part of nucleic acids but missing entirely in PNA probes. Overall best results in terms of selectivity and sensitivity were obtained with thiol-modified PNAs on maleimide surfaces.
PMCID: PMC206485  PMID: 14500847
11.  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
12.  Chiral introduction of positive charges to PNA for double-duplex invasion to versatile sequences 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;36(5):1464-1471.
Invasion of two PNA strands to double-stranded DNA is one of the most promising methods to recognize a predetermined site in double-stranded DNA (PNA = peptide nucleic acid). In order to facilitate this ‘double-duplex invasion’, a new type of PNA was prepared by using chiral PNA monomers in which a nucleobase was bound to the α-nitrogen of N-(2-aminoethyl)-d-lysine. These positively charged monomer units, introduced to defined positions in Nielsen's PNAs (poly[N-(2-aminoethyl)glycine] derivatives), promoted the invasion without impairing mismatch-recognizing activity. When pseudo-complementary nucleobases 2,6-diaminopurine and 2-thiouracil were bound to N-(2-aminoethyl)-d-lysine, the invasion successfully occurred even at highly G–C-rich regions [e.g. (G/C)7(A/T)3 and (G/C)8(A/T)2] which were otherwise hardly targeted. Thus, the scope of sequences available as the target site has been greatly expanded. In contrast with the promotion by the chiral PNA monomers derived from N-(2-aminoethyl)-d-lysine, their l-isomers hardly invaded, showing crucial importance of the d-chirality. The promotion of double-duplex invasion by the chiral (d) PNA monomer units was ascribed to both destabilization of PNA/PNA duplex and stabilization of PNA/DNA duplexes.
PMCID: PMC2275137  PMID: 18203747
13.  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
14.  In Situ Synthesis of Peptide Nucleic Acids in Porous Silicon for Drug Delivery and Biosensing 
Bioconjugate Chemistry  2014;25(7):1192-1197.
Peptide nucleic acids (PNA) are a unique class of synthetic molecules that have a peptide backbone and can hybridize with nucleic acids. Here, a versatile method has been developed for the automated, in situ synthesis of PNA from a porous silicon (PSi) substrate for applications in gene therapy and biosensing. Nondestructive optical measurements were performed to monitor single base additions of PNA initiated from (3-aminopropyl)triethoxysilane attached to the surface of PSi films, and mass spectrometry was conducted to verify synthesis of the desired sequence. Comparison of in situ synthesis to postsynthesis surface conjugation of the full PNA molecules showed that surface mediated, in situ PNA synthesis increased loading 8-fold. For therapeutic proof-of-concept, controlled PNA release from PSi films was characterized in phosphate buffered saline, and PSi nanoparticles fabricated from PSi films containing in situ grown PNA complementary to micro-RNA (miR) 122 generated significant anti-miR activity in a Huh7 psiCHECK-miR122 cell line. The applicability of this platform for biosensing was also demonstrated using optical measurements that indicated selective hybridization of complementary DNA target molecules to PNA synthesized in situ on PSi films. These collective data confirm that we have established a novel PNA–PSi platform with broad utility in drug delivery and biosensing.
PMCID: PMC4103755  PMID: 24949894
15.  Phospholipid conjugate for intracellular delivery of peptide nucleic acids 
Bioconjugate chemistry  2009;20(9):1729-1736.
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.
PMCID: PMC2763590  PMID: 19678628
peptide nucleic acid; phospholipid; lipid; cell penetrating peptide; micelle; endocytosis; bioreductively cleavable
16.  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
17.  Methods for assessing DNA hybridization of PNA-TiO2 nanoconjugates 
Analytical biochemistry  2008;383(2):226-235.
We describe the synthesis of peptide nucleic acid (PNA)-titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoconjugates and the several novel methods developed to investigate the DNA hybridization behaviors of these constructs. PNAs are synthetic DNA analogs resistant to degradation by cellular enzymes, which hybridize to single strand DNA (ssDNA) with higher affinity than DNA oligonucleotides, invade double strand DNA (dsDNA), and form different PNA-DNA complexes. Previously, we developed a DNA-TiO2 nanoconjugate capable of hybridizing to target DNA intracellularly in a sequence-specific manner, with the ability to cleave DNA when excited by electromagnetic radiation, but susceptible to degradation which may lower its intracellular targeting efficiency and retention time. PNA-TiO2 nanoconjugates described herein hybridize to target ssDNA, oligonucleotide dsDNA, and supercoiled plasmid DNA under physiological-like ionic and temperature conditions, enabling rapid and inexpensive, sequence-specific precipitation of nucleic acids in vitro. When modified by the addition of imaging agents or peptides, hybridization capabilities of PNA-TiO2 nanoconjugates are enhanced which provides essential benefits for numerous in vitro and in vivo applications. The series of experiments shown here could not be done with either TiO2-DNA nanoconjugates or PNAs alone, and the novel methods developed will benefit studies of numerous other nanoconjugate systems.
PMCID: PMC2597192  PMID: 18786502
titanium dioxide; peptide nucleic acid; nanoparticle; DNA; hybridization
18.  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
19.  Modulation of mdm2 pre-mRNA splicing by 9-aminoacridine-PNA (peptide nucleic acid) conjugates targeting intron-exon junctions 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:342.
Modulation of pre-mRNA splicing by antisense molecules is a promising mechanism of action for gene therapeutic drugs. In this study, we have examined the potential of peptide nucleic acid (PNA) 9-aminoacridine conjugates to modulate the pre-mRNA splicing of the mdm2 human cancer gene in JAR cells.
We screened 10 different 15 mer PNAs targeting intron2 at both the 5' - and the 3'-splice site for their effects on the splicing of mdm2 using RT-PCR analysis. We also tested a PNA (2512) targeting the 3'-splice site of intron3 with a complementarity of 4 bases to intron3 and 11 bases to exon4 for its splicing modulation effect. This PNA2512 was further tested for the effects on the mdm2 protein level as well as for inhibition of cell growth in combination with the DNA damaging agent camptothecin (CPT).
We show that several of these PNAs effectively inhibit the splicing thereby producing a larger mRNA still containing intron2, while skipping of exon3 was not observed by any of these PNAs. The most effective PNA (PNA2406) targeting the 3'-splice site of intron2 had a complementarity of 4 bases to intron2 and 11 bases to exon3. PNA (2512) targeting the 3'-splice site of intron3 induced both splicing inhibition (intron3 skipping) and skipping of exon4. Furthermore, treatment of JAR cells with this PNA resulted in a reduction in the level of MDM2 protein and a concomitant increase in the level of tumor suppressor p53. In addition, a combination of this PNA with CPT inhibited cell growth more than CPT alone.
We have identified several PNAs targeting the 5'- or 3'-splice sites in intron2 or the 3'-splice site of intron3 of mdm2 pre-mRNA which can inhibit splicing. Antisense targeting of splice junctions of mdm2 pre-mRNA may be a powerful method to evaluate the cellular function of MDM2 splice variants as well as a promising approach for discovery of mdm2 targeted anticancer drugs.
PMCID: PMC2910690  PMID: 20591158
20.  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
21.  Improvement of sequence selectivity in triple helical recognition of RNA by phenylalanine-derived PNA 
Artificial DNA, PNA & XNA  2013;4(3):69-76.
Modified peptide nucleic acids (PNA) containing one or two thymine PNA monomers derived from phenylalanine were synthesized. Triple helix formation by these modified PNAs with RNA and DNA hairpins having a variable base pair in the middle of the helix were studied using isothermal titration calorimetry and compared with triple helix formation by non-modified PNAs. While unmodified PNA had low sequence selectivity against mismatched hairpins, introduction of one or two phenylalanine-derived monomers significantly increased the mismatch discrimination and sequence selectivity of the modified PNA. Consistent with our previous observations, PNA formed more stable triple helices with RNA than with DNA. Interestingly, the phenylalanine modification further improved the preference of PNA for RNA over DNA hairpin.
PMCID: PMC3962516  PMID: 24104925
PNA backbone modification; PNA-RNA triple helix; isothermal titration calorimetry; peptide nucleic acid; recognition of double-stranded RNA
22.  Electrospray ionisation-cleavable tandem nucleic acid mass tag–peptide nucleic acid conjugates: synthesis and applications to quantitative genomic analysis using electrospray ionisation-MS/MS 
Nucleic Acids Research  2007;35(4):e28.
The synthesis and characterization of isotopomer tandem nucleic acid mass tag–peptide nucleic acid (TNT–PNA) conjugates is described along with their use as electrospray ionisation-cleavable (ESI-Cleavable) hybridization probes for the detection and quantification of target DNA sequences by electrospray ionisation tandem mass spectrometry (ESI-MS/MS). ESI-cleavable peptide TNT isotopomers were introduced into PNA oligonucleotide sequences in a total synthesis approach. These conjugates were evaluated as hybridization probes for the detection and quantification of immobilized synthetic target DNAs using ESI-MS/MS. In these experiments, the PNA portion of the conjugate acts as a hybridization probe, whereas the peptide TNT is released in a collision-based process during the ionization of the probe conjugate in the electrospray ion source. The cleaved TNT acts as a uniquely resolvable marker to identify and quantify a unique target DNA sequence. The method should be applicable to a wide variety of assays requiring highly multiplexed, quantitative DNA/RNA analysis, including gene expression monitoring, genetic profiling and the detection of pathogens.
PMCID: PMC1994780  PMID: 17259215
23.  Inhibition of Epithelial Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) With Immunochemogene Treatment in Metastatic Colorectal Cancer 
Epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) causes resistance to epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitors. We used immunochemogene treatment composed of a stealth nanoparticle formulation, consisting of clamp PNA against mRNA of FOXC2, anti-CD44 chimeric MAb, and vinorelbine, in an attempt to eradicate metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) cells and inhibit metastasis by blocking EMT.
Tumor cells from patients with stage IV chemoresistant CRC characterized by upregulation of FOXC2, CD44, and bcl-2 were obtained surgically. We synthesized antisense clamp peptide nucleic acid (PNA) oligomers (DNA analogs), in which the 6 mer homopyrimidine triplex [(PNA)2/RNA)] hybridized to the 5-end (Leader), and the 10 mer purine/pyrimidine duplex (PNA/RNA) hybridized to the 3-end (Trailer) of the AUG start codon region on the mRNA of FOXC2. The uncharged and hydrophilic antisense clamp PNA anti-FOXC2 was incorporated in the polar phase, and the vinorelbine molecules were entrapped in the acyl-chains of the lipid phase. This was surrounded by the stealth/biocompatibility polymer layer and biological recognition layer with linked chimeric MAbs against CD44 of the nanoparticle formulation. This was used to treat xenograft animal models developed from CRC cells obtained from the stage IV patients. Tumor cells were analyzed with microarray, single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) assay, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), western blot (WB), Southern blot (SB), immunoblotting (LC-MS/MS), immunofluorescence staining, immunohistochemistry (IHC), fluorescent activated cell sorter (FACS), confocal microscopy, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU), MTT, and flow cytometry.
Post-treatment, we observed downregulation of CD44 and Fra-2, and induction of antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC). The clamp PNA inhibited translation of FOXC2, resulting in activation of Jak2/Stat5a genes, which led to suppression of EMT of cancer cells. This blocked CRC metastatic invasion by reversing the mesenchymal phenotype; reconstituted homotypic adhesion; and promoted differentiation in CRC cells. Undifferentiated epithelial cells undergoing EMT exhibited overexpression of FOXC2, and this expression was lost when these cells returned to their initial differentiated epithelial state, blocking invasion and metastasis. Inhibition of EMT downregulated EGFR and inactivated NF-kB, inhibiting its downstream signaling pathway. Epithelial cell junction proteins claudin 4, claudin 7, and E-cadherin were overexpressed, upregulating beta-catenin; while mesenchymal markers vimentin and fibronectin were downregulated. Downregulation of Twist, Snail, and transcription 3 and 5 blocked the migratory potential of tumor cells, inhibiting metastasis. Calcium-independent cell-cell adhesion molecules EpCAM and TROP2 were upregulated. Vinorelbine blocked tumor cells at G2/M cell cycle, and phosphorylated bcl-2. This circumvented resistance to anoikis, inducing apoptosis in tumor cells due to lack of adhesion, inhibiting invasion and metastasis. In addition to the induction of caspase-dependent apoptosis or programmed cell death (PCD) type I in tumor cells, bcl-2 downregulation caused release of beclin-1 and upregulation of bcl-2–interacting mediator of cell death (BIM), inducing type II PCD or autophagy. TEM exhibited bystander killing effect of tumor cells by adjacent cells, and activated phagocytic cells such as macrophages. DNA synthesis and metabolic activity of tumor cells were inhibited according to BrdU and MTT tests, respectively.
This immunochemogene treatment induced epithelial differentiation by reversing the mesenchymal phenotype, promoted homotypic adhesion, inhibited the multigene signature indicative of EMT, blocking metastatic cell motility/invasiveness, and eradicated mCRC cells resistant to EGFR inhibitors by induction of PCD type-I and type-II, apoptosis and autophagy, leading to a bystander killing effect.
PMCID: PMC3056306
24.  Synthesis of polyacrylamides N-substituted with PNA-like oligonucleotide mimics for molecular diagnostic applications. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1999;27(22):4416-4426.
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.
PMCID: PMC148725  PMID: 10536151
25.  Down-regulation of MDM2 and activation of p53 in human cancer cells by antisense 9-aminoacridine–PNA (peptide nucleic acid) conjugates 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(16):4893-4902.
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.
PMCID: PMC519114  PMID: 15371552

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