Optimization of an unnatural base pair toward natural-like replication Academic Article uri icon

publication date

  • 2009


  • Predominantly hydrophobic unnatural nucleotides that selectively pair within duplex DNA as well as during polymerase-mediated replication have recently received much attention as the cornerstone of efforts to expand the genetic alphabet. We recently reported the results of a screen and subsequent lead hit optimization that led to identification of the unnatural base pair formed between the nucleotides dMMO2 and d5SICS. This unnatural base pair is replicated by the Klenow fragment of Escherichia coli DNA polymerase I with better efficiency and fidelity than other candidates reported in the literature. However, its replication remains significantly less efficient than a natural base pair, and further optimization is necessary for its practical use. To better understand and optimize the slowest step of replication of the unnatural base pair, the insertion of dMMO2 opposite d5SICS, we synthesized two dMMO2 derivatives, d5FM and dNaM, which differ from the parent nucleobase in terms of shape, hydrophobicity, and polarizability. We find that both derivatives are inserted opposite d5SICS more efficiently than dMMO2 and that overall the corresponding unnatural base pairs are generally replicated with higher efficiency and fidelity than the pair between dMMO2 and d5SICS. In fact, in the case of the dNaM:d5SICS heteropair, the efficiency of each individual step of replication approaches that of a natural base pair, and the minimum overall fidelity ranges from 10(3) to 10(4). In addition, the data allow us to propose a generalized model of unnatural base pair replication, which should aid in further optimization of the unnatural base pair and possibly in the design of additional unnatural base pairs that are replicated with truly natural-like efficiency and fidelity.