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Monomers for Preparation of Amide-Linked RNA:  Asymmetric Synthesis of All Four Nucleoside 5‘-Azido 3‘-Carboxylic Acids

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journal contribution
posted on 25.11.2005, 00:00 by Eriks Rozners, Yang Liu
Recent discovery of RNA interference as an efficient and naturally occurring mechanism of gene regulation has reinvigorated the interest in chemically modified RNA. For potential in-vivo applications small interfering RNAs require chemical modifications to fine-tune the thermal stability and increase the cellular delivery and potency and in vivo half-life of the RNA duplexes. From this perspective, amides as neutral and hydrophobic internucleoside linkages in RNA are highly interesting modifications for RNA interference. Amides are remarkably good mimics of the phosphodiester backbone of RNA and can be prepared using a relatively straightforward peptide coupling chemistry. However, the progress in the field has been hampered by the shortage of efficient methods to synthesize the monomeric building blocks for such couplings, the nucleoside amino acid equivalents. Herein, we report enantioselective synthesis of 5‘-azido 3‘-carboxylic acid derivatives of all four natural ribonucleosides. The key transformations in our synthesis are a double asymmetric ene reaction and a stereoselective iodolactonization that form the basic carbon skeleton of the modified ribose. Standard nucleoside synthesis is followed by a short and highly efficient protecting group manipulation to give the enantiomerically pure (>98%) title compounds in 9−10 steps and 15−19% overall yields starting from small achiral molecules. The present results are a significant improvement over our first-generation racemic synthesis and compare favorably with the previously reported synthesis from nucleoside and carbohydrate precursors.