High-yield production of short GpppA- and 7MeGpppA-capped RNAs and HPLC-monitoring of methyltransfer reactions at the guanine-N7 and adenosine-2′O positions

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Many eukaryotic and viral mRNAs, in which the first transcribed nucleotide is an adenosine, are decorated with a cap-1 structure, 7MeG5′-ppp5′-A2′OMe. The positive-sense RNA genomes of flaviviruses (Dengue, West Nile virus) for example show strict conservation of the adenosine. We set out to produce GpppA- and 7MeGpppA-capped RNA oligonucleotides for non-radioactive mRNA cap methyltransferase assays and, in perspective, for studies of enzyme specificity in relation to substrate length as well as for co-crystallization studies. This study reports the use of a bacteriophage T7 DNA primase fragment to synthesize GpppACn and 7MeGpppACn (1 ≤ n ≤ 9) in a one-step enzymatic reaction, followed by direct on-line cleaning HPLC purification. Optimization studies show that yields could be modulated by DNA template, enzyme and substrate concentration adjustments and longer reaction times. Large-scale synthesis rendered pure (in average 99%) products (1 ≤ n ≤ 7) in quantities of up to 100 nmol starting from 200 nmol cap analog. The capped RNA oligonucleotides were efficient substrates of Dengue virus (nucleoside-2′-O-)-methyltransferase, and human (guanine-N7)-methyltransferase. Methyltransfer reactions were monitored by a non-radioactive, quantitative HPLC assay. Additionally, the produced capped RNAs may serve in biochemical, inhibition and structural studies involving a variety of eukaryotic and viral methyltransferases and guanylyltransferases.

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