With the central role of nucleic acids there is a need for development of fluorophores that facilitate the visualization of processes involving nucleic acids without perturbing their natural properties and behaviour. Here, we incorporate a new analogue of adenine, 2CNqA, into both DNA and RNA, and evaluate its nucleobase-mimicking and internal fluorophore capacities. We find that 2CNqA displays excellent photophysical properties in both nucleic acids, is highly specific for thymine/uracil, and maintains and slightly stabilises the canonical conformations of DNA and RNA duplexes. Moreover, the 2CNqA fluorophore has a quantum yield in single-stranded and duplex DNA ranging from 10% to 44% and 22% to 32%, respectively, and a slightly lower one (average 12%) inside duplex RNA. In combination with a comparatively strong molar absorptivity for this class of compounds, the resulting brightness of 2CNqA inside double-stranded DNA is the highest reported for a fluorescent base analogue. The high, relatively sequence-independent quantum yield in duplexes makes 2CNqA promising as a nucleic acid label and as an interbase Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) donor. Finally, we report its excellent spectral overlap with the interbase FRET acceptors qAnitro and tCnitro, and demonstrate that these FRET pairs enable conformation studies of DNA and RNA.
Nucleic Acids Res