Formation of RNA Oligomers on Montmorillonite: Site of Catalysis

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Certain montmorillonites catalyze the self condensation of the 5′-phosphorimidazolide of nucleosides in pH 8 aqueous electrolyte solutions at ambient temperatures leading to formation of RNA oligomers. In order to establish the nature of the sites on montmorillonite responsible for this catalytic activity, oligomerization reactions were run with montmorillonites which had been selectively modified (I) at the edges by (a) fluoride treatment, (b) silylation, (c) metaphosphate treatment of the anion exchange sites (II) in the interlayer by (a) saturation with quaternary alkylammonium ions of increasing size, (b) aluminum polyoxo cations. High pressure liquid chromatography, HPLC, analysis of condensation products for their chain lengths and yields indicated that modification at the edges did not affect the catalytic activity to a significant extent, while blocking the interlayer strongly inhibited product formation.

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