A novel route for preparing 5′ cap mimics and capped RNAs: phosphate-modified cap analogues obtained via click chemistry†
The significant biological role of the mRNA 5′ cap in translation initiation makes it an interesting subject for chemical modifications aimed at producing useful tools for the selective modulation of intercellular processes and development of novel therapeutic interventions. However, traditional approaches to the chemical synthesis of cap analogues are time-consuming and labour-intensive, which impedes the development of novel compounds and their applications. Here, we explore a different approach for synthesizing 5′ cap mimics, making use of click chemistry (CuAAC) to combine two mononucleotide units and yield a novel class of dinucleotide cap analogues containing a triazole ring within the oligophosphate chain. As a result, we synthesized a library of 36 mRNA cap analogues differing in the location of the triazole ring, the polyphosphate chain length, and the type of linkers joining the phosphate and the triazole moieties. After biochemical evaluation, we identified two analogues that, when incorporated into mRNA, produced transcripts translated with efficiency similar to compounds unmodified in the oligophosphate bridge obtained by traditional synthesis. Moreover, we demonstrated that the triazole-modified cap structures can be generated at the RNA 5′ end using two alternative capping strategies: either the typical co-transcriptional approach, or a new post-transcriptional approach based on CuAAC. Our findings open new possibilities for developing chemically modified mRNAs for research and therapeutic applications, including RNA-based vaccinations.