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Biochemistry. 2019 Aug 13;58(32):3444-3453. doi: 10.1021/acs.biochem.9b00521. Epub 2019 Jul 29.

Incorporating 2-Thiouracil into Short Double-Stranded RNA-Binding Peptide Nucleic Acids for Enhanced Recognition of A-U Pairs and for Targeting a MicroRNA Hairpin Precursor.

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NTU Institute for Health Technologies (HeathTech NTU), Interdisciplinary Graduate School , Nanyang Technological University , 50 Nanyang Drive , Singapore 637553.
Division of Chemistry and Biological Chemistry, School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences , Nanyang Technological University , 21 Nanyang Link , Singapore 637371.
Division of Biological Sciences , Nara Institute of Science and Technology , 8916-5 Takayama , Ikoma , Nara 630-0192 , Japan.


Chemically modified short peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) recognize RNA duplexes under near physiological conditions by major-groove PNA·RNA-RNA triplex formation and show great promise for the development of RNA-targeting probes and therapeutics. Thymine (T) and uracil (U) are often incorporated into PNAs to recognize A-U pairs through major-groove T·A-U and U·A-U base triple formation. Incorporation of a modified nucleobase, 2-thiouracil (s2U), into triplex-forming oligonucleotides stabilizes both DNA and RNA triplexes. Thiolation of uracil causes a decrease in the dehydration energy penalty for triplex formation as well as a decrease in the pKa of the N3 atom, which may result in improved hydrogen bonding in addition to enhanced base stacking interactions, similar to the previously reported thiolation effect of pseudoisocytosine (J to L substitution). Here, we incorporated s2U into short PNAs, followed by binding studies of a series of s2U-modified PNAs. We demonstrated by nondenaturing polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and thermal melting experiments that s2U and L incorporated into dsRNA-binding PNAs (dbPNAs) enhance the recognition of A-U and G-C pairs, respectively, in RNA duplexes in a position-independent manner, with no appreciable binding to the DNA duplex. Combining s2U and L modifications in dbPNAs facilitates enhanced recognition of dsRNAs and maintains selective binding to dsRNAs over ssRNAs. We further demonstrated through a cell-free assay the application of the s2U- and L-modified dbPNAs (8-mer, with a molecular mass of ∼2.3 kDa) in the inhibition of the pre-microRNA-198 maturation in a substrate-specific manner. Thus, s2U-modified dbPNAs may be generally useful for the enhanced and selective recognition of RNA duplexes and for the regulation of RNA functions.

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