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Viability Of Arsenate-DNA

December 13, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 50

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Arsenate esters are not sufficiently stable in water for the phosphorus-to-arsenic substitution implied in Felisa Wolfe-Simon’s paper to be functional, nor do the experiments reported in the paper show the substitution in a chemically rigorous manner (C&EN, Dec. 6, page 36).

A rigorous proof of the viability of “arsenate-DNA” would require the chemical synthesis of a (duplex) oligo of this material and a thorough spectroscopic analysis to characterize the structure. The spectroscopic parameters found from such a study could then be used as a reference point to examine the DNA from the arsenate-tolerant extremophile. This has not been done, but if it were attempted, the available literature suggests that the arsenate linkage would spontaneously hydrolyze on first exposure to water.

John D. Sutherland
Cambridge, England


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