Technological watch

Unnatural bases for recognition of noncoding nucleic acid interfaces

The notion of using synthetic heterocycles instead of the native bases to interface with DNA and RNA has been explored for nearly 60?years. Unnatural bases compatible with the DNA/RNA coding interface have the potential to expand the genetic code and co?opt the machinery of biology to access new macromolecular function; accordingly, this body of research is core to synthetic biology. While much of the literature on artificial bases focuses on code expansion, there is a significant and growing effort on docking synthetic heterocycles to noncoding nucleic acid interfaces; this approach seeks to illuminate major processes of nucleic acids, including regulation of transcription, translation, transport, and transcript lifetimes. These major avenues of research at the coding and noncoding interfaces have in common fundamental principles in molecular recognition. Herein, we provide an overview of foundational literature in biophysics of base recognition and unnatural bases in coding to provide context for the developing area of targeting noncoding nucleic acid interfaces with synthetic bases, with a focus on systems developed through iterative design and biophysical study.

Publication date: 24/09/2020

Author: Shiqin Miao, Yufeng Liang, Sarah Rundell, Debmalya Bhunia, Shekar Devari, Oliver Munyaradzi, Dennis Bong

Reference: doi:10.1002/bip.23399



This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870292.