Naphthalene, Phenanthrene, and Pyrene as DNA Base Analogues:  Synthesis, Structure, and Fluorescence in DNA

We describe the synthesis, structures, and DNA incorporation of deoxyribonucleosides carrying polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons as the DNA “base” analogue. The new polycyclic compounds are 1-naphthyl, 2-naphthyl, 9-phenanthrenyl, and 1-pyrenyl deoxynucleosides. The compounds are synthesized using a recently developed C-glycosidic bond formation method involving organocadmium derivatives of the aromatic compounds coupling with a 1α-chlorodeoxyribose precursor. The principal products of this coupling are the α-anomers of the deoxyribosides. An efficient method has also been developed for epimerization of the α-anomers to β-anomers by acid-catalyzed equilibration; this isomerization is successfully carried out on the four polycyclic nucleosides as well as two substituted phenyl nucleosides. The geometry of the anomeric substitution is derived from 1H NOE experiments and is also correlated with a single-crystal X-ray structure of one α-isomer. Three of the polycyclic C-nucleoside derivatives are incorporated into DNA oligonucleotides via their phosphoramidite derivatives; the pyrenyl and phenanthrenyl derivatives are shown to be fluorescent in a DNA sequence. The results (1) broaden the scope of our C-glycoside coupling reaction, (2) demonstrate that (using a new acid-catalyzed epimerization) both α- and β-anomers are easily synthesized, and (3) constitute a new class of deoxynucleoside derivatives. Such nucleoside analogues may be useful as biophysical probes for the study of noncovalent interactions such as aromatic π-stacking in DNA. In addition, the fluorescence of the phenanthrene and pyrene nucleosides may make them especially useful as structural probes.