We have previously described the characterization of a 20mer phosphorothioate oligodeoxynucleotide (ISIS 4189) which inhibits murine protein kinase C-alpha (PKC-alpha) gene expression, both in vitro and in vivo. In an effort to increase the antisense activity of this oligonucleotide, 2'-O-propyl modifications have been incorporated into the 5'- and 3'-ends of the oligonucleotide, with the eight central bases left as phosphorothioate oligodeoxynucleotides. Hybridization analysis demonstrated that these modifications increased affinity by approximately 8 and 6 degrees C per oligonucleotide for the phosphodiester (ISIS 7815) and phosphorothioate (ISIS 7817) respectively when hybridized to an RNA complement. In addition, 2'-O-propyl incorporation greatly enhanced the nuclease resistance of the oligonucleotides to snake venom phosphodiesterase or intracellular nucleases in vivo. The increase in affinity and nuclease stability of ISIS 7817 resulted in a 5-fold increase in the ability of the oligonucleotide to inhibit PKC-alpha gene expression in murine C127 cells, as compared with the parent phosphorothioate oligodeoxynucleotide. Thus an RNase H-dependent phosphorothioate oligodeoxynucleotide can be modified as a 2'-O-propyl 'chimeric' oligonucleotide to provide a significant increase in antisense activity in cell culture.