Utilization of nucleobase pairing to develop supramolecular polymers, electron transfer systems, and interaction with biological molecules



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Hydrogen bonding is seen extensively in Nature. It is manifest in DNA/RNA nucleic acid (nucleobase) pairing, the defining feature of the double helix, as well as in secondary structures in protein folding such as hairpin loops. This importance, thus coupled with the aesthetic appeal of nucleobase hydrogen-bonding interactions, has inspired us to design and synthesize new hydrogen-bonded assemblies that make use of Watson-Crick and Hoogsteen interactions. Currently, novel supramolecular architectures are being developed for the formation of supramolecular polymers via Watson-Crick hydrogen bonding of guanosine and cytidine. Supramolecular polymer formation occurs through hydrogen bonding, electronic interactions, and metal chelation, and allows for a highly thermodynamic system that can easily be broken and reformed through external stimuli. By synthesizing linear, metal-nucleobase, and functionalized guanosine entities, a variety of new “monomers” have been obtained. Their use in construction of main chain and side chain polymers, and G-quartet hydrogels are now being explored. The hydrogen bonding motifs used to develop supramolecular polymers are also attractive for developing through bond electron transfer systems. One inspiration for developing artificial donor-acceptor systems (i.e., linked through non-covalent interactions) comes from the light harvesting systems found in Nature. Triggered by a pulse of UV light, electron transfer across bridges, including charge separation and charge recombination processes can occur and the rates can be determined. As one part of this study, collaborators Igor Rubtsov and David Beratan studied how perturbing the vibrational modes of the bridge via IR pulse excitation, affected electron transfer. Mid-IR excitation of the donor-acceptor systems slowed the rate of electron transfer, likely because the molecular vibrations either disrupted the bridging hydrogen bonds or distorted the electronic interactions of the bridge. This observance could lend itself to the possibility of designing IR-controlled molecular switches and other devices Another mode of hydrogen bonding, Hoogsteen interactions, was explored in the context of developing a guanosine-quadruplex binder. Specifically, a pyrrole-based inosine was designed to direct hydrogen bonding via an extended Hoogsteen interaction in order to bind to quadruplex DNA. Quadruplex DNA has been studied as a folded form of DNA and, if stabilized, can inhibit gene replication especially amongst cancer strands.
In summary, the candidate’s research efforts have focused on exploiting hydrogen bonding in nucleobases to construct novel supramolecular assemblies that could see eventual applications in materials chemistry, nanotechnology, and gene therapy.