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Synthesis and photophysical characterization of a pH?sensitive quadracyclic uridine (qU) analogue

Fluorescent base analogues (FBAs) have become useful tools for applications in biophysical chemistry, chemical biology, live?cell imaging, and RNA therapeutics. Herein, two synthetic routes towards a novel FBA of uracil named qU (quadracyclic uracil/uridine) are described. The qU nucleobase bears a tetracyclic fused ring system and is designed to allow for specific Watson?Crick base pairing with adenine. We find that qU absorbs light in the visible region of the spectrum and emits brightly with a quantum yield of 27% and a dual?band character in a wide pH range. With evidence, among other things, from fluorescence lifetime measurements we suggest that this dual emission feature results from an excited?state proton transfer (ESPT) process. Furthermore, we find that both absorption and emission of qU are highly sensitive to pH. The high brightness in combination with excitation in the visible and pH responsiveness makes qU an interesting native?like nucleic acid label in spectroscopy and microscopy applications in, for example, the field of mRNA and antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) therapeutics.

Publication date: 17/01/2024



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