Synthetic genetic polymers capable of heredity and evolution

Vitor B. Pinheiro, Alexander I. Taylor, Christopher Cozens, Mikhail Abramov, Marleen Renders, Su Zhang, John C. Chaput, Jesper Wengel, Sew Yeu Peak-Chew, Stephen H. McLaughlin, Piet Herdewijn, Philipp Holliger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

483 Scopus citations


Genetic information storage and processing rely on just two polymers, DNA and RNA, yet whether their role reflects evolutionary history or fundamental functional constraints is currently unknown. With the use of polymerase evolution and design, we show that genetic information can be stored in and recovered from six alternative genetic polymers based on simple nucleic acid architectures not found in nature [xeno-nucleic acids (XNAs)]. We also select XNA aptamers, which bind their targets with high affinity and specificity, demonstrating that beyond heredity, specific XNAs have the capacity for Darwinian evolution and folding into defined structures. Thus, heredity and evolution, two hallmarks of life, are not limited to DNA and RNA but are likely to be emergent properties of polymers capable of information storage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-344
Number of pages4
Issue number6079
StatePublished - Apr 20 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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