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Sequence-specific DNA-binding molecules such as triple helix-forming oligonucleotides (TFOs) provide a means for inducing site-specific mutagenesis and recombination at chromosomal sites in mammalian cells. However, the utility of TFOs is limited by the requirement for homopurine stretches in the target duplex DNA. Here, we report the use of pseudocomplementary peptide nucleic acids (pcPNAs) for intracellular gene targeting at mixed sequence sites. Due to steric hindrance, pcPNAs are unable to form pcPNA–pcPNA duplexes but can bind to complementary DNA sequences by Watson–Crick pairing via double duplex-invasion complex formation. We show that psoralen-conjugated pcPNAs can deliver site-specific photoadducts and mediate targeted gene modification within both episomal and chromosomal DNA in mammalian cells without detectable off-target effects. Most of the induced psoralen-pcPNA mutations were single-base substitutions and deletions at the predicted pcPNAbinding sites. The pcPNA-directed mutagenesis was found to be dependent on PNA concentration and UVA dose and required matched pairs of pcPNAs. Neither of the individual pcPNAs alone had any effect nor did complementary PNA pairs of the same sequence. These results identify pcPNAs as new tools for site-specific gene modification in mammalian cells without purine sequence restriction, thereby providing a general strategy for designing gene targeting molecules.
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