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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Dec 24;99(26):16695-700. Epub 2002 Dec 2.

Site-directed recombination via bifunctional PNA-DNA conjugates.

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Departments of Therapeutic Radiology and Genetics, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Site-specific DNA binding molecules offer the potential for genetic manipulation of mammalian cells. Peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) are a DNA mimic in which the purine and pyrimidine bases are attached to a polyamide backbone. PNAs bind with high affinity to single-stranded DNA via Watson-Crick base pairing and can form triple helices via Hoogsteen binding to DNAPNA duplexes. Dimeric bis-PNAs capable of both strand invasion and triplex formation can form clamp structures on target DNAs. As a strategy to promote site-directed recombination, a bis-PNA was coupled to a 40-nt donor DNA fragment homologous to an adjacent region in the target gene. The PNA-DNA conjugate was found to mediate site-directed recombination with a plasmid substrate in human cell-free extracts, resulting in correction of a mutation in a reporter gene at a frequency at least 60-fold above background. Induced site-specific recombination was also seen when the bis-PNA and the donor DNA were co-mixed without covalent linkage. In addition, the bis-PNA and the bis-PNA-DNA conjugate were found to induce DNA repair specifically in the target plasmid. Both the PNA-induced recombination and the PNA-induced repair were found to be dependent on the nucleotide excision repair factor, XPA (xeroderma pigmentosum complementation group A protein). These results suggest that the formation of a PNA clamp on duplex DNA creates a helical distortion that strongly provokes DNA repair and thereby sensitizes the target site to recombination. The ability to promote recombination in a site-directed manner using PNA-DNA conjugates may provide a useful strategy to achieve targeted correction of defective genes.

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