Fine tuning of electrostatics around the internucleotidic phosphate through incorporation of modified 2',4'-carbocyclic-LNAs and -ENAs leads to significant modulation of antisense properties

J Org Chem. 2009 Jan 2;74(1):118-34. doi: 10.1021/jo8016742.


In the antisense (AS) and RNA interference (RNAi) technologies, the native single-stranded 2'-deoxyoligonucleotides (for AS) or double-stranded RNA (for RNAi) are chemically modified to bind to the target RNA in order to give improved downregulation of gene expression through inhibition of RNA translation. It is shown here how the fine adjustment of the electrostatic interaction by alteration of the substituents as well as their stereochemical environment around the internucleotidic phosphodiester moiety near the edge of the minor grove of the antisense oligonucleotides (AON)-RNA heteroduplex can lead to the modulation of the antisense properties. This was demonstrated through the synthesis of various modified carbocyclic-locked nucleic acids (LNAs) and -ethylene-bridged nucleic acids (ENAs) with hydroxyl and/or methyl substituents attached at the carbocyclic part and their integration into AONs by solid-phase DNA synthesis. The target affinity toward the complementary RNA and DNA, nuclease resistance, and RNase H elicitation by these modified AONs showed that both the nature of the modification (-OH versus -CH(3)) and their respective stereochemical orientations vis-a-vis vicinal phosphate play a very important role in modulating the AON properties. Whereas the affinity to the target RNA and the enzymatic stability of AONs were not favored by the hydrophobic and sterically bulky modifications in the center of the minor groove, their positioning at the edge of the minor groove near the phosphate linkage resulted in significantly improved nuclease resistance without loss of target affinity. On the other hand, hydrophilic modification, such as a hydroxyl group, close to the phosphate linkage made the internucleotidic phosphodiester especially nucleolytically unstable, and hence was not recommended. The substitutions on the carbocyclic moiety of the carba-LNA and -ENA did not affect significantly the choice of the cleavage sites of RNase H mediated RNA cleavage in the AON/RNA hybrid duplex, but the cleavage rate depended on the modification site in the AON sequence. If the original preferred cleavage site by RNase H was included in the 4-5nt stretch from the 3'-end of the modification site in the AON, decreased cleavage rate was observed. Upon screening of 52 modified AONs, containing 13 differently modified derivatives at C6' and C7' (or C8') of the carba-LNAs and -ENAs, two excellent modifications in the carba-LNA series were identified, which synergistically gave outstanding antisense properties such as the target RNA affinity, nuclease resistance, and RNase H activity and were deemed to be ideal candidates as potential antisense or siRNA therapeutic agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acids, Carbocyclic / chemistry*
  • DNA / chemical synthesis
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • Ethylenes / chemistry*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / chemical synthesis
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / chemistry*
  • Phosphates / chemistry*
  • RNA / chemical synthesis
  • RNA / chemistry*
  • Static Electricity
  • Stereoisomerism
  • Time Factors


  • Acids, Carbocyclic
  • Ethylenes
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense
  • Phosphates
  • RNA
  • DNA