Efficient and selective recognition of DNA by proteins is due to sequence-specific interactions with a target site and nonselective electrostatic interactions that promote the target's rapid location. If synthetic molecules could mimic these functions, they would render a wide range of chromosome sequences accessible to rationally designed probes. Here we describe conjugates between bispeptide nucleic acids (bisPNAs) designed to specifically recognize duplex DNA and peptides that have been designed to promote rapid sequence recognition. Peptide design was based on the surface of staphylococcal nuclease, a cationic DNA binding protein with low sequence selectivity. We observe that attachment of the designed peptide increases rates of strand invasion by 100-fold relative to unmodified bisPNA. The peptide can contain D-amino acids, increasing the likelihood that it will be stable in cell extract and inside cells. Binding of the conjugate containing the D-amino acid peptide occurred over a broad range of experimental conditions and was sensitive to a single mismatch. Strand invasion was efficient at neutral to basic pH, a wide range of temperatures (0-65°C), and in the presence of up to 7 mM Mg2+ and 100 mM Na+ or K+. Our data suggest that attachment of peptides that mimic cationic protein surfaces to PNAs can afford conjugates that mimic the rapid and selective binding that characterizes native DNA binding proteins. Rapid strand invasion over a wide range of experimental conditions should further expand the utility of strand invasion by PNAs.
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