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Science. 1999 Jan 29;283(5402):699-703.

Chemical etiology of nucleic acid structure: comparing pentopyranosyl-(2'-->4') oligonucleotides with RNA.

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  • 1The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


All four members of the family of pentopyranosyl-(2'-->4') oligonucleotide systems that contain beta-ribo-, beta-xylo-, alpha-lyxo-, or alpha-arabinopyranosyl units as repeating sugar building blocks are found to be much stronger Watson-Crick base-pairing systems than RNA. The alpha-arabinopyranosyl system is the strongest of all and in fact belongs to the strongest oligonucleotide base-pairing systems known. Whatever the chemical determinants by which nature selected RNA as a genetic system, maximization of base-pairing strengths within the domain of pentose-derived oligonucleotide systems was not the critical selection criterion.

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