Mercury-Free Automated Synthesis of Guanidinium Backbone Oligonucleotides

Kacper Skakuj, Katherine E. Bujold, Chad A. Mirkin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


A new method for synthesizing deoxynucleic guanidine (DNG) oligonucleotides that uses iodine as a mild and inexpensive coupling reagent is reported. This method eliminates the need for the toxic mercury salts and pungent thiophenol historically used in methods aimed at preparing DNG oligonucleotides. This coupling strategy was readily translated to a standard MerMade 12 oligonucleotide synthesizer with coupling yields of 95% and has enabled the synthesis of a 20-mer DNG oligonucleotide, the longest DNG strand to date, in addition to mixed DNA-DNG sequences with 3-9 DNG inserts. Importantly, DNG oligonucleotides exhibit robust unaided cellular uptake as compared to unmodified oligonucleotides without apparent cellular toxicity. Taken together, these findings should greatly increase the accessibility of cationic backbone modifications and assist in the development of oligonucleotide-based drugs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20171-20176
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number51
StatePublished - Dec 26 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry

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