The many facets of adenine: coordination, crystal patterns, and catalysis

Sandeep Verma, Ashutosh Kumar Mishra, Jitendra Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

222 Scopus citations


(Figure Presented) Canonical purine-pyrimidine base pairs, the key to the complementary hydrogen bonding in nucleic acids, are fundamental molecular recognition motifs crucial for the formation and stability of double-helical DNA. Consequently, focused study and modeling of nucleobase hydrogen-bonding schemes have spawned a vast array of chemical and biophysical investigations. The Watson-Crick, reverse Watson-Crick Hoogsteen, and reverse Hoogsteen hydrogen-bonding schemes stabilize various nucleic acid structures. As a result, numerous modified bases have been designed to maximize such interactions, addressing specific problems related to base pairing and giving rise to supramolecular ensembles in solution or in the solid state. It is also important to realize that suitably predisposed imino nitrogens and other functional groups present in heterocyclic nucleobases present a versatile molecular framework for the construction of coordination architectures, which may be harnessed to mimic base polyads and higher order nucleic acid structures. Adenine, a purine nucleobase, is an important naturally occurring nitrogen heterocycle present in nucleic acids. It is notable that the adenine unit is also frequently encountered as an inextricable part of enzyme cofactors and second messenger systems, such as NAD+, FADH2, and cAMP, which are essential for certain catalytic reactions and biochemical processes. In addition, a crucial catalytic role of the adenine moiety is also observed in group II intron catalysis and at the ribosomal peptidyltransferase center. Such versatile functional roles of the adenine framework serve as an inspiration for addressing research problems, ranging from classical coordination chemistry to the development of new materials. In this Account, we begin by describing the emerging use of adenine nucleobase for the design of metal-nucleobase frameworks. The coordination of metal ions affords a variety of oligomeric and polymeric species; we focus on silver- and copperbased structures and also discuss ferrocenylated adenine tetrads. We then consider the use of supramolecular adenine coordination complexes for transferring molecular properties onto surfaces. This technique is particularly useful for transferring noncovalent interactions, such as van der Waals forces, electrostatic interactions, and hydrogen bonding, to designed architectures in nanoscale applications. Finally, we explore the issue of adenine-based catalytic entities. Here, adenine moieties are first fixed in a polymeric matrix, followed by metalation of the matrix. These metalated adenine-containing polymers are then assayed for catalytic assistance in various chemical and biochemical reactions. Taken together, the versatile coordination abilities and hydrogenbonding capacity of adenine offer a novel entry point for a natural ligand into materials synthesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-91
Number of pages13
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 19 Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry (all)


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