Background: In vitro selection (SELEX) previously identified short single-stranded DNAs that specifically bound N-methylmesoporphyrin IX (NMM), a stable transition-state analogue for porphyrin-metallation reactions. Interestingly, iron(III)-protoporphyrin (hemin) was a good competitive inhibitor for the DNA-catalyzed metallation reaction, and appeared to bind strongly to the NMM-binding DNA aptamers. We investigated the peroxidase activity of the aptamer-hemin complexes to see if the DNA component of the complex, like the apoenzymes in protein peroxidases, could enhance the low intrinsic peroxidatic activity of hemin.
Results: Two porphyrin-binding DNA aptamers bound hemin with submicromolar affinity. The aptamer-hemin complexes had significantly higher peroxidase activity than hemin alone, under physiological conditions. The Vobs of the PS2.M-hemin complex was 250 times greater than that of hemin alone, and significantly superior to a previously reported hemin-catalytic-antibody complex. Preliminary spectroscopic evidence suggests the coordination of the hemin iron in the complex changes, such that the complex more closely resembles horseradish peroxidase and other heme proteins rather than hemin.
Conclusions: A new class of catalytic activity for nucleic acids is reported. The aptamer-hemin complexes described are novel DNA enzymes and their study will help elucidate the structural and functional requirements of peroxidase enzymes in general and the ways that a nucleic acid 'apoenzyme' might work to enhance the intrinsic peroxidatic ability of hemin. These aptamer-hemin complexes could be regarded as prototypes for redox-catalyzing ribozymes in a primordial 'RNA world'.