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1.  Strand Invasion of DNA Quadruplexes by PNA: Comparison of Homologous and Complementary Hybridization 
Chembiochem : a European journal of chemical biology  2013;14(12):10.1002/cbic.201300263.
Molecular recognition of DNA quadruplex structures is envisioned as a strategy for regulating gene expression at the transcriptional level and for in situ analysis of telomere structure and function. The recognition of DNA quadruplexes by peptide nucleic acid (PNA) oligomers is presented here, with a focus on comparing complementary, heteroduplex-forming and homologous, heteroquadruplex-forming PNAs. Surface plasmon resonance and optical spectroscopy experiments demonstrated that the efficacy of a recognition mode depended strongly on the target. For a quadruplex derived from the promoter regulatory region found upstream of the MYC proto-oncogene, the homologous PNA readily invades the DNA target to form a heteroquadruplex at high potassium concentration mimicking the intracellular environment, whereas the complementary PNA exhibits virtually no hybridization. In contrast, the complementary PNA is superior to the homologous PNA in hybridizing to a quadruplex modeled on the human telomere sequence. The results are discussed in terms of the different structural morphologies of the quadruplex targets and the implications for in vivo recognition of quadruplexes by PNAs.
PMCID: PMC3856695  PMID: 23868291
2.  Modular Evolution of DNA-Binding Preference of a Tbrain Transcription Factor Provides a Mechanism for Modifying Gene Regulatory Networks 
Molecular Biology and Evolution  2014;31(10):2672-2688.
Gene regulatory networks (GRNs) describe the progression of transcriptional states that take a single-celled zygote to a multicellular organism. It is well documented that GRNs can evolve extensively through mutations to cis-regulatory modules (CRMs). Transcription factor proteins that bind these CRMs may also evolve to produce novelty. Coding changes are considered to be rarer, however, because transcription factors are multifunctional and hence are more constrained to evolve in ways that will not produce widespread detrimental effects. Recent technological advances have unearthed a surprising variation in DNA-binding abilities, such that individual transcription factors may recognize both a preferred primary motif and an additional secondary motif. This provides a source of modularity in function. Here, we demonstrate that orthologous transcription factors can also evolve a changed preference for a secondary binding motif, thereby offering an unexplored mechanism for GRN evolution. Using protein-binding microarray, surface plasmon resonance, and in vivo reporter assays, we demonstrate an important difference in DNA-binding preference between Tbrain protein orthologs in two species of echinoderms, the sea star, Patiria miniata, and the sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. Although both orthologs recognize the same primary motif, only the sea star Tbr also has a secondary binding motif. Our in vivo assays demonstrate that this difference may allow for greater evolutionary change in timing of regulatory control. This uncovers a layer of transcription factor binding divergence that could exist for many pairs of orthologs. We hypothesize that this divergence provides modularity that allows orthologous transcription factors to evolve novel roles in GRNs through modification of binding to secondary sites.
PMCID: PMC4166925  PMID: 25016582
evo-devo; gene regulatory networks; transcription factors; echinoderm; evolution; T-box
3.  Twisted Cyanines: A Non-Planar Fluorogenic Dye with Superior Photostability and its Use in a Protein-Based Fluoromodule 
The cyanine dye thiazole orange (TO) is a well-known fluorogenic stain for DNA and RNA, but this property precludes its use as an intracellular fluorescent probe for non-nucleic acid biomolecules. Further, as is the case with many cyanines, the dye suffers from low photostability. Here we report the synthesis of a bridge-substituted version of TO named α-CN-TO, where the central methine hydrogen of TO is replaced by an electron withdrawing cyano group, which was expected to decrease the susceptibility of the dye toward singlet oxygen-mediated degradation. An X-ray crystal structure shows that α-CN-TO is twisted drastically out of plane, in contrast to TO, which crystallizes in the planar conformation. α-CN-TO retains the fluorogenic behavior of the parent dye TO in viscous glycerol/water solvent, but direct irradiation and indirect bleaching studies showed that α-CN-TO is essentially inert to visible light and singlet oxygen. In addition, the twisted conformation of α-CN-TO mitigates non-specific binding and fluorescence activation by DNA and a previously selected TO-binding protein and exhibits low background fluorescence in HeLa cell culture. α-CN-TO was then used to select a new protein that binds and activates fluorescence from the dye. The new α-CN-TO/protein fluoromodule exhibits superior photostability to an analogous TO/protein fluoromodule. These properties indicate that α-CN-TO will be a useful fluorogenic dye in combination with specific RNA and protein binding partners for both in vitro and cell-based applications. More broadly, structural features that promote nonplanar conformations can provide an effective method for reducing nonspecific binding of cationic dyes to nucleic acids and other biomolecules.
PMCID: PMC3574795  PMID: 23252842
4.  Antitumor Effects of EGFR Antisense Guanidine-Based Peptide Nucleic Acids in Cancer Models 
ACS chemical biology  2012;8(2):345-352.
Peptide nucleic acids have emerged over the past two decades as a promising class of nucleic acid mimics because of their strong binding affinity and sequence selectivity toward DNA and RNA, and resistance to enzymatic degradation by proteases and nucleases. While they have been shown to be effective in regulation of gene expression in vitro, and to a small extent in vivo, their full potential for molecular therapy has not yet been fully realized due to poor cellular uptake. Herein, we report the development of cell-permeable, guanidine-based peptide nucleic acids targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in preclinical models as therapeutic modality for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and nonsmall cell lung cancer (NSCLC). A GPNA oligomer, 16 nucleotides in length, designed to bind to EGFR gene transcript elicited potent antisense effects in HNSCC and NSCLC cells in preclinical models. When administered intraperitoneally in mice, EGFRAS-GPNA was taken-up by several tissues including the xenograft tumor. Systemic administration of EGFRAS-GPNA induced antitumor effects in HNSCC xenografts, with similar efficacies as the FDA-approved EGFR inhibitors: cetuximab and erlotinib. In addition to targeting wild-type EGFR, EGFRAS-GPNA is effective against the constitutively active EGFR vIII mutant implicated in cetuximab resistance. Our data reveals that GPNA is just as effective as a molecular platform for treating cetuximab resistant cells, demonstrating its utility in the treatment of cancer.
PMCID: PMC3684443  PMID: 23113581
5.  A Variable Light Domain Fluorogen Activating Protein Homodimerizes to Activate Dimethylindole Red† 
Biochemistry  2012;51(12):2471-2485.
Novel fluorescent tools such as green fluorescent protein analogs and Fluorogen Activating Proteins (FAPs) are useful in biological imaging to track protein dynamics in real-time with low fluorescence background. FAPs are single-chain variable fragments (scFvs) selected from a yeast surface display library that produce fluorescence upon binding a specific dye or fluorogen that is normally not fluorescent when present in solution. FAPs generally consist of human immunoglobulin variable heavy (VH) and variable light (VL) domains covalently attached via a glycine and serine rich linker. Previously, we determined that the yeast surface clone, VH-VL M8, could bind and activate the fluorogen dimethylindole red (DIR), but that the fluorogen activation properties were localized to the M8VL domain. We report here that both NMR and X-ray diffraction methods indicate the M8VL forms non-covalent, anti-parallel homodimers that are the fluorogen activating species. The M8VL homodimers activate DIR by restriction of internal rotation of the bound dye. These structural results, together with directed evolution experiments of both VH-VL M8 and M8VL, led us to rationally design tandem, covalent homodimers of M8VL domains joined by a flexible linker that have a high affinity for DIR and good quantum yield.
PMCID: PMC3325293  PMID: 22390683
6.  Wavelength Dependence of the Fluorescence Quenching Efficiency of Nearby Dyes by Gold Nanoclusters and Nanoparticles: The Roles of Spectral Overlap and Particle Size 
The efficiency of the glutathione monolayer-protected gold nanocluster (NC) Au25 (1.2 nm metal core diameter (d)) in quenching the emission of dyes intercalated into DNA is compared to that of 2 and 4 nm gold nanoparticles (NPs). In all cases, the DNA/dye moieties and the gold particles are not covalently attached but rather form non-covalent ground state complexes. Under these conditions, steady-state measurements reveal that the quenching efficiency of Au25 is a factor of 10 lower than that of plasmonic 4 nm gold NPs but comparable to that of 2 nm particles which do not show a distinct plasmon band. Nonetheless, significant emission quenching is observed even at very low (nM) concentrations of Au25. The quenching efficiency of the 4 nm NPs is significantly higher for dyes emitting near the wavelength of the plasmon peak whereas that of the 2 nm gold NPs is well described by the nano-surface energy transfer (NSET) model proposed by the Strouse group (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 127, 3115 2005). Interestingly, for Au25 the maximum quenching efficiency occurs for dyes emitting in the same wavelength range as that of the 2 and 4 nm NPs (490-560 nm), where it shows no discrete absorption features, rather than for wavelengths coincident with its HOMO-LUMO, intra-band or inter-band transitions. The fluorescence quenching properties of Au25 NCs are therefore found to be distinct from those of larger NCs and NPs but do not appear to conform to theoretical predictions advanced thus far.
PMCID: PMC3424614  PMID: 22924090
7.  Fluorescent DNA Nanotags Featuring Covalently Attached Intercalating Dyes: Synthesis, Antibody Conjugation and Intracellular Imaging 
Bioconjugate chemistry  2011;22(8):1491-1502.
We have synthesized fluorescent DNA duplexes featuring multiple thiazole orange (TO) intercalating dyes covalently attached to the DNA via a triazole linkage. The intercalating dyes stabilize the duplex against thermal denaturation and show bright fluorescence in the green. The emission color can be changed to orange or red by addition of energy-accepting Cy3 or Cy5 dyes attached covalently to the DNA duplex. The dye-modified DNA duplexes were then attached to a secondary antibody for intracellular fluorescence imaging of centrosomes in Drosophila embryos. Bright fluorescent foci were observed at the centrosomes in both the donor (TO) and acceptor (Cy5) channels, due to the fact that the energy transfer efficiency is moderate. Monitoring the Cy5 emission channel significantly minimized the background signal due to the large shift in emission wavelength allowed by energy transfer.
PMCID: PMC3163149  PMID: 21755981
8.  Kinetic Discrimination in Recognition of DNA Quadruplex Targets by Guanine-Rich Heteroquadruplex-Forming PNA Probes 
Guanine-rich peptide nucleic acid probes hybridize to DNA G quadruplex targets with high affinity, forming PNA-DNA heteroquadruplexes. We report a surprising degree of kinetic discrimination for PNA heteroquadruplex formation with a series of DNA targets. The fastest hybridization is observed for targets folded into parallel morphologies.
PMCID: PMC3163151  PMID: 21717030
9.  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
10.  Blue Fluorescent Dye-Protein Complexes Based on Fluorogenic Cyanine Dyes and Single Chain Antibody Fragments 
Organic & biomolecular chemistry  2010;9(4):1012-1020.
Fluoromodules are complexes formed upon the noncovalent binding of a fluorogenic dye to its cognate biomolecular partner, which significantly enhances the fluorescence quantum yield of the dye. Previously, several single-chain, variable fragment (scFv) antibodies were selected from a yeast cell surface-displayed library that activated fluorescence from a family of unsymmetrical cyanine dyes covering much of the visible and near-IR spectrum. The current work expands our repertoire of genetically encodable scFv-dye pairs by selecting and characterizing a group of scFvs that activate fluorogenic blue-absorbing, blue-fluorescing cyanine dyes, based on oxazole and thiazole heterocycles. The dye binds to both yeast cell surface-displayed and soluble scFvs with low nanomolar Kd values. These dye-protein fluoromodules exhibit high quantum yields, approaching unity for the brightest system. The promiscuity of these scFvs with other fluorogenic cyanine dyes was also examined. Fluorescence microscopy demonstrates that the yeast cell surface-displayed scFvs can be used for multicolor imaging. The prevalence of 405 nm lasers on confocal imaging and flow cytometry systems make these new reagents potentially valuable for cell biological studies.
PMCID: PMC3163152  PMID: 21180706
11.  Telomeric Repeat Mutagenicity in Human Somatic Cells is Modulated by Repeat Orientation and G-Quadruplex Stability 
DNA repair  2010;9(11):1119-1129.
Telomeres consisting of tandem guanine-rich repeats can form secondary DNA structures called G-quadruplexes that represent potential targets for DNA repair enzymes. While G-quadruplexes interfere with DNA synthesis in vitro, the impact of G-quadruplex formation on telomeric repeat replication in human cells is not clear. We investigated the mutagenicity of telomeric repeats as a function of G-quadruplex folding opportunity and thermal stability using a shuttle vector mutagenesis assay. Since single stranded DNA during lagging strand replication increases the opportunity for G-quadruplex folding, we tested vectors with G-rich sequences on the lagging versus the leading strand. Contrary to our prediction, vectors containing human [TTAGGG]10 repeats with a G-rich lagging strand were significantly less mutagenic than vectors with a G-rich leading strand, after replication in normal human cells. We show by UV melting experiments that G-quadruplexes from ciliates [TTGGGG]4 and [TTTTGGGG]4 are thermally more stable compared to human [TTAGGG]4. Consistent with this, replication of vectors with ciliate [TTGGGG]10 repeats yielded a 3-fold higher mutant rate compared to the human [TTAGGG]10 vectors. Furthermore, we observed significantly more mutagenic events in the ciliate repeats compared to the human repeats. Our data demonstrate that increased G-quadruplex opportunity (repeat orientation) in human telomeric repeats decreased mutagenicity, while increased thermal stability of telomeric G-qaudruplexes was associated with increased mutagenicity.
PMCID: PMC2988439  PMID: 20800555
telomere; G-quadruplex; genomic instability; DNA replication; mutagenesis
12.  Noncovalent binding and fluorogenic response of cyanine dyes to DNA homoquadruplex and PNA-DNA heteroquadruplex structures 
Artificial DNA, PNA & XNA  2011;2(2):43-49.
Two symmetrical cyanine dyes based on benzothiazole heterocycles and a trimethine bridge were found to bind to a parallel-stranded DNA guanine quadruplex based on the MYC oncogene promoter sequence with high nanomolar affinity and 1:1 stoichiometry. The dyes exhibited substantial fluorescence enhancements upon binding. In the presence of homologous guanine-rich peptide nucleic acid oligomers, PNA-DNA heteroquadruplexes were formed. The dyes retained their ability to bind to the heteroquadruplexes at low micromolar concentrations and with varying fluorescence enhancements, although indeterminate stoichiometries preclude quantitative comparison of the affinities with the DNA homoquadruplex precursor. The difference in fluorescence enhancement between DNA homoquadruplex and PNA-DNA heteroquadruplex allows the dyes to be used as fluorogenic indicators of hybridization in a facile method for determining PNA-DNA stoichiometry.
PMCID: PMC3166489  PMID: 21912726
PNA-DNA heteroquadruplex; cyanine dyes; hybridization; small molecule-quadruplex recognition; fluorescence enhancement
13.  Loop and Backbone Modifications of PNA Improve G-Quadruplex Binding Selectivity 
Targeting guanine (G) quadruplex structures is an exciting new strategy with potential for controlling gene expression and designing anticancer agents. Guanine-rich peptide nucleic acid (PNA) oligomers bind to homologous DNA and RNA to form hetero-G-quadruplexes but can also bind to complementary cytosine-rich sequences to form heteroduplexes. In this study, we incorporated backbone modifications into G-rich PNAs to improve the selectivity for quadruplex vs duplex formation. Incorporation of abasic sites as well as chiral modifications to the backbone were found to be effective strategies for improving selectivity as shown by UV-melting and surface plasmon resonance measurements. The enhanced selectivity is due primarily to decreased affinity for complementary sequences, since binding to the homologous DNA to form PNA-DNA heteroquadruplexes retains high affinity. The improved selectivity of these PNAs is an important step toward using PNAs for regulating gene expression by G quadruplex formation.
PMCID: PMC2819988  PMID: 19947597
14.  Enhanced Photostability of Genetically Encodable Fluoromodules Based on Fluorogenic Cyanine Dyes and a Promiscuous Protein Partner 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2009;131(36):12960-12969.
Fluoromodules are discrete complexes of biomolecules and fluorogenic dyes. Binding of the dyes to their cognate biomolecule partners results in enhanced dye fluorescence. We exploited a previously reported promiscuous binding interaction between a single chain, variable fragment antibody protein and a family of cyanine dyes to create new protein-dye fluoromodules that exhibit enhanced photostability while retaining high affinity protein-dye binding. Modifications to the dye structure included electron withdrawing groups that provide resistance to photo-oxidative damage. Low nanomolar equilibrium dissociation constants were found for the new dyes. Fluorescence microscopy illustrates how yeast can be surface-labeled with three different colors based on a single protein and appropriately chosen dyes.
PMCID: PMC2744899  PMID: 19737016
15.  A Rainbow of Fluoromodules: A Promiscuous scFv Protein Binds to and Activates a Diverse Set of Fluorogenic Cyanine Dyes 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2008;130(38):12620-12621.
Combined magnetic and fluorescence cell sorting were used to select Fluorogen Activating Proteins (FAPs) from a yeast surface-displayed library for binding to the fluorogenic cyanine dye Dimethyl Indole Red (DIR). Several FAPs were selected that bind to the dye with low nanomolar Kd values and enhance fluorescence more than 100-fold. One of these FAPs also exhibits considerable promiscuity, binding with high affinity to several other fluorogenic cyanine dyes with emission wavelengths covering most of the visible and near-IR regions of the spectrum. This significantly expands the number and wavelength range of scFv-based fluoromodules.
PMCID: PMC2633110  PMID: 18761447
16.  Experimental and Computational Investigation of Unsymmetrical Cyanine Dyes: Understanding Torsionally Responsive Fluorogenic Dyes 
Unsymmetrical cyanine dyes are widely used in biomolecular detection due to their fluorogenic behavior, whereby fluorescence quantum yields can be very low in fluid solution but are significantly enhanced in conformationally restricted environments. Herein we describe a series of fluorinated analogues of the dye thiazole orange that exhibit improved fluorescence quantum yields and photostabilities. In addition, computational studies on these dyes revealed that twisting about the monomethine bridge beyond an interplanar angle of 60° leads to a dark state that decays nonradiatively to the ground state, accounting for the observed fluorogenic behavior. The effects of position and number of fluorine substituents correlates with both observed quantum yield and calculated activation energy for twisting beyond this critical angle.
PMCID: PMC2535610  PMID: 17411048
17.  Fluorescent DNA Nanotags: Supramolecular Fluorescent Labels Based on Intercalating Dye Arrays Assembled on Nanostructured DNA Templates 
Fluorescence detection and imaging are vital technologies in the life sciences and clinical diagnostics. The key to obtaining high-resolution images and sensitive detection is to use fluorescent molecules or particles that absorb and emit visible light with high efficiency. We have synthesized supramolecular complexes consisting of a branched DNA template and fluorogenic intercalating dyes. Since dyes can intercalate up to every other base pair, high densities of fluorophores are assembled, yet the DNA template keeps them far enough away from each other to prevent self-quenching. The efficiency with which these noncovalent assemblies absorb light is more than 10-fold greater than that of the individual dye molecules. Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) from the intercalated dyes to covalently attached acceptor dyes is very efficient, allowing for wavelength shifting of the emission spectrum. Simple biotinylation of the DNA template allows for labeling of streptavidin-coated synthetic microspheres and mouse T-cells.
PMCID: PMC2532517  PMID: 17256855
18.  Hybridization of Complementary and Homologous Peptide Nucleic Acid Oligomers to a Guanine Quadruplex-Forming RNA† 
Biochemistry  2006;45(6):1745-1754.
Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) oligomers targeted to guanine quadruplex-forming RNAs can be designed in two different ways. First, complementary cytosine-rich PNAs can hybridize by formation of Watson-Crick base pairs, resulting in hybrid PNA-RNA duplexes. Second, guanine-rich homologous PNAs can hybridize by formation of G-tetrads, resulting in hybrid PNA-RNA quadruplexes. UV thermal denaturation, circular dichroism and fluorescence spectroscopy experiments were used to compare these two recognition modes and revealed 1:1 duplex formation for the complementary PNA and 2:1 (PNA2-RNA) quadruplex formation for the homologous PNA. Both hybrids were very stable and hybridization was observed at low nanomolar concentrations. Hybrid quadruplex formation was equally efficient regardless of the PNA strand polarity, indicating a lack of interaction between the loop nucleobases on the PNA and RNA strands. The implications of this finding on sequence specificity as well as methods to improve affinity are also discussed.
PMCID: PMC2518313  PMID: 16460021

Results 1-18 (18)