Induced Chirality in PNA-PNA Duplexes
Journal article, 1995
Complementary peptide nucleic acids (PNA) form Watson-Crick base-paired helical duplexes. The preferred helicity of such a duplex is determined by a chiral amino acid attached to the C-terminus. We here show that the induced helicity, as measured by circular dichroism (CD), is drastically dependent on the nucleobase sequence proximal to the chiral center. Chemically linked PNA tetramer duplexes of all 16 combinations of the two bases proximal to a carboxy terminal lysine residue were studied by CD. We conclude that the base next to the chiral center must be either a guanine or a cytosine for efficient stabilization of one helical sense. In case of cytosine, the subsequent base should preferably be a purine. We also show that the side chain properties of the C-terminal amino acid influence the resulting sense of helicity. The propagation length of induced chirality in PNA duplexes is found to be around 10 base pairs. Theoretical calculations of the circular dichroism for B-DNA, using the quantum mechanical matrix method of Schellman, give spectra in reasonable agreement with those found experimentally for PNA duplexes. The rate of helix conversion of the duplexes shows first-order kinetics with a rate constant in the range of minutes. Shorter duplexes are found to have lower activation energy and larger negative activation entropy for helix conversion, in agreement with a conversion mechanism in which a perfect helix is switched to the opposite handedness.