Tandem trimer pyrrole–imidazole polyamide probes targeting 18 base pairs in human telomere sequences
The binding of molecules to specific DNA sequences is important for imaging genome DNA and for studying gene expression. Increasing the number of base pairs targeted by these molecules would provide greater specificity. N-Methylpyrrole–N-methylimidazole (Py–Im) polyamides are one type of such molecules and can bind to the minor groove of DNA in a sequence-specific manner without causing denaturation of DNA. Our recent work has demonstrated that tandem hairpin Py–Im polyamides conjugated with a fluorescent dye can be synthesized easily and can serve as new probes for studying human telomeres under mild conditions. Herein, to improve their selectivities to telomeres by targeting longer sequences, we designed and synthesized a fluorescent tandem trimer Py–Im polyamide probe, comprising three hairpins and two connecting regions (hinges). The new motif bound to 18 bp dsDNA in human telomeric repeats (TTAGGG)n, the longest sequence for specific binding reported for Py–Im polyamides. We compared the binding affinities and the abilities to discriminate mismatch, the UV-visible absorption and fluorescence spectra, and telomere staining in human cells between the tandem trimer and a previously developed tandem hairpin. We found that the tandem trimer Py–Im polyamide probe has higher ability to recognize telomeric repeats and stains telomeres in chemically fixed cells with lower background signal.