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Chem Biodivers. 2010 Apr;7(4):753-85. doi: 10.1002/cbdv.200900200.

Selenium derivatization of nucleic acids for X-ray crystal-structure and function studies.

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Department of Chemistry, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA.


It is estimated that over two thirds of all new crystal structures of proteins are determined via the protein selenium derivatization (selenomethionine (Se-Met) strategy). This selenium derivatization strategy via MAD (multi-wavelength anomalous dispersion) phasing has revolutionized protein X-ray crystallography. Through our pioneer research, similarly, Se has also been successfully incorporated into nucleic acids to facilitate the X-ray crystal-structure and function studies of nucleic acids. Currently, Se has been stably introduced into nucleic acids by replacing nucleotide O-atom at the positions 2', 4', 5', and in nucleobases and non-bridging phosphates. The Se derivatization of nucleic acids can be achieved through solid-phase chemical synthesis and enzymatic methods, and the Se-derivatized nucleic acids (SeNA) can be easily purified by HPLC, FPLC, and gel electrophoresis to obtain high purity. It has also been demonstrated that the Se derivatization of nucleic acids facilitates the phase determination via MAD phasing without significant perturbation. A growing number of structures of DNAs, RNAs, and protein-nucleic acid complexes have been determined by the Se derivatization and MAD phasing. Furthermore, it was observed that the Se derivatization can facilitate crystallization, especially when it is introduced to the 2'-position. In addition, this novel derivatization strategy has many advantages over the conventional halogen derivatization, such as more choices of the modification sites via the atom-specific substitution of the nucleotide O-atom, better stability under X-ray radiation, and structure isomorphism. Therefore, our Se-derivatization strategy has great potentials to provide rational solutions for both phase determination and high-quality crystal growth in nucleic-acid crystallography. Moreover, the Se derivatization generates the nucleic acids with many new properties and creates a new paradigm of nucleic acids. This review summarizes the recent developments of the atomic site-specific Se derivatization of nucleic acids for structure determination and function study. Several applications of this Se-derivatization strategy in nucleic acid and protein research are also described in this review.

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