Several classes of nucleic acid analogs have been reported, but no synthetic informational polymer has yet proven responsive to selection pressures under enzyme-free conditions. Here, we introduce an oligomer family that efficiently self-assembles by means of reversible covalent anchoring of nucleobase recognition units onto simple oligo-dipeptide backbones [thioester peptide nucleic acids (tPNAs)] and undergoes dynamic sequence modification in response to changing templates in solution. The oligomers specifically self-pair with complementary tPNA strands and cross-pair with RNA and DNA in Watson-Crick fashion. Thus, tPNA combines base-pairing interactions with the side-chain functionalities of typical peptides and proteins. These characteristics might prove advantageous for the design or selection of catalytic constructs or biomaterials that are capable of dynamic sequence repair and adaptation.