Pinheiro VB, Taylor AI, et al. (2012) Synthetic genetic polymers capable of heredity and evolution. Science 336(6079):341–344.
Genetic information is stored and propagated by just two nucleic acids, DNA and RNA, which provide the molecular basis for life. Information transfer through base pairing with DNA or RNA is facilitated by a small subset of chemistries carried out by polymerases that exhibit stringent substrate selectivity. Pinheiro et al. have developed xeno-nucleic acids, alternative genetic polymers based on nucleic acid architecture, for storage and recovery of genetic information. To achieve this, the researchers engineered polymerases that can synthesize XNA from a DNA template and reverse transcribe XNA back into DNA. Using XNA aptamers
manufactured by IDT, the researchers are able to show high affinity and specificity of target binding, demonstrating the capacity of XNAs for Darwinian evolution. The authors propose that heredity and evolution are not limited to DNA and RNA, but are properties of polymers capable of information storage.