Parameterization of the miniPEG-Modified γpNA Backbone: Toward Induced γpNA Duplex Dissociation



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Journal Article

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Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation





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γ-Modified peptide nucleic acids (γPNAs) serve as potential therapeutic agents against genetic diseases. Miniature poly(ethylene glycol) (miniPEG) has been reported to increase solubility and binding affinity toward genetic targets, yet details of γPNA structure and dynamics are not understood. Within our work, we parameterized missing torsional and electrostatic terms for the miniPEG substituent on the γ-carbon atom of the γPNA backbone in the CHARMM force field. Microsecond timescale molecular dynamics simulations were carried out on six miniPEG-modified γPNA duplexes from NMR structures (PDB ID: 2KVJ). Three NMR models for the γPNA duplex (PDB ID: 2KVJ) were simulated as a reference for structural and dynamic changes captured for the miniPEG-modified γPNA duplex. Principal component analysis performed on the γPNA backbone atoms identified a single isotropic conformational substate (CS) for the NMR simulations, whereas four anisotropic CSs were identified for the ensemble of miniPEG-modified γPNA simulations. The NMR structures were found to have a 23° helical bend toward the major groove, consistent with our simulated CS structure of 19.0°. However, a significant difference between simulated methyl- and miniPEG-modified γPNAs involved the opportunistic invasion of miniPEG through the minor and major groves. Specifically, hydrogen bond fractional analysis showed that the invasion was particularly prone to affect the second G-C base pair, reducing the Watson-Crick base pair hydrogen bond by 60% over the six simulations, whereas the A-T base pairs decreased by only 20%. Ultimately, the invasion led to base stack reshuffling, where the well-ordered base stacking was reduced to segmented nucleobase stacking interactions. Our 6 μs timescale simulations indicate that duplex dissociation suggests the onset toward γPNA single strands, consistent with the experimental observation of decreased aggregation. To complement the insight of miniPEG-modified γPNA structure and dynamics, the new miniPEG force field parameters allow for further exploration of such modified γPNA single strands as potential therapeutic agents against genetic diseases.

Open Access