A recent study provides new insight into the design of orthogonal information systems based on the pairing of nucleic acids. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA) are crucial to life on Earth today, and are built as a string of nucleic acids attached to homogenous-sugar-backbones (deoxyribose in DNA and ribose in RNA). The structures of DNA and RNA have been used as a basis from which to explore other nucleic acid systems that are artificially created in the laboratory, referred to as Xeno Nucleic Acid (XNA) systems. However, many of these systems result in oligonucleotides where the nucleic acids do not pair with themselves, or with RNA or DNA.

A recent study reports two XNA systems that can be combined with RNA and DNA. The pairing occurs in specific patterns and produces oligonucleotides with a chimeric backbone. In certain cases, the resulting base-pairing is stronger than traditional RNA/DNA, and shows unconventional pairing behavior.

The study, “Chimeric XNA ‐ An Unconventional Design for Orthogonal Informational Systems,” was published in the journal Chemistry: A European Journal. The work was performed at the NSF/NASA Center for Chemical Evolution (CCE) at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. The CCE is a collaborative program supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the NASA Astrobiology Program.