Molecular Requirements of High-Fidelity Replication-Competent DNA Backbones for Orthogonal Chemical Ligation

A. Shivalingam, A. E. S. Tyburn, A. H. El-Sagheer and T. Brown. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 139 (4), 1575-1583, 2017.


The molecular properties of the phosphodiester backbone that made it the evolutionary choice for the enzymatic replication of genetic information are not well understood. To address this, and to develop new chemical ligation strategies for assembly of biocompatible modified DNA, we have synthesized oligonucleotides containing several structurally and electronically varied artificial linkages. This has yielded a new highly promising ligation method based on amide backbone formation that is chemically orthogonal to CuAAC “click” ligation. A study of kinetics and fidelity of replication through these artificial linkages by primer extension, PCR, and deep sequencing reveals that a subtle interplay between backbone flexibility, steric factors, and ability to hydrogen bond to the polymerase modulates rapid and accurate information decoding. Even minor phosphorothioate modifications can impair the copying process, yet some radical triazole and amide DNA backbones perform surprisingly well, indicating that the phosphate group is not essential. These findings have implications in the field of synthetic biology.