Peptide nucleic acids: Mechanism of tight binding and application in artificial nuclease

Larisa Anatolievna Kosynkina, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Peptide nucleic acids (PNA) are mimics of nucleic acids with a peptidic backbone. Duplexes and triplexes formed between PNA and DNA or RNA possess remarkable thermal stability, they are resistant to nuclease cleavage and can better discriminate mismatches. Understanding the mechanism for the tight binding between PNA and oligonucleotides is important for the design and development of better PNA-based drugs. We have performed molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of 8-mer PNA/DNA duplex and two analogous duplexes with chiral modification of PNA strand (D- or L-Alanine modification). MD simulations were performed with explicit water and Na$\sp{+}$ counter ions. The 1.5-ns simulations were carried out with AMBER using periodic boundary and particle mesh Ewald summation. The point charges for PNA monomers were derived from fitting electrostatic potentials, obtained from ab initio calculation, to atomic centers using RESP. Derived charges reveal significantly altered charge distribution on the PNA bases and predict the Watson-Crick H-bonds involving PNA to be stronger. Results from NMR studies investigating H-bond interactions between DNA-DNA and DNA-PNA base pairs in non-polar environment are consistent with this prediction. MD simulations demonstrated that the PNA strand is more flexible than the DNA strand in the same duplex. That this flexibility might be important for the duplex stability is tested by introducing modification into the PNA backbones. Results from MD simulation revealed dramatically altered structures for the modified PNA-DNA duplexes. Consistent with previous NMR results, we also found no intrachain hydrogen bonds between O7$\sp\prime$ and N1$\sp\prime$ of the neighboring residues in our MD study. Our study reveals that in addition to the lack of charge repulsion, stronger Watson-Crick hydrogen bonds together with flexible backbone are important factors for the enhanced stability of the PNA-DNA duplex. In a related study, we have developed an application of Gly-Gly-His-(Gly)$\sb3$-PNA conjugate as an artificial nuclease. We were able to demonstrate cleavage of single stranded DNA at a single site upon Ni(II) binding to Gly-Gly-His tripeptide and activation of nuclease with monoperoxyphthalic acid.

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Recommended Citation

Kosynkina, Larisa Anatolievna, "Peptide nucleic acids: Mechanism of tight binding and application in artificial nuclease" (1998). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9909442.