Mechanochemical Synthesis of Short DNA Fragments

We report the general and rapid synthesis of short DNA fragments of controllable sequence and length using multi-step, one-pot mechanochemical reactions, without bulk solvent or the need to isolate intermediates. We demonstrate, for the first time, the multi-step ball milling synthesis of DNA dimers and trimers via phosphoramidite and H-phosphonate chemistries. The use of mechanochemistry allowed for coupling of phosphoramidite monomers to the 5'-hydroxyl group of nucleosides, iodine/water oxidation of the resulting phosphite triester linkage, and removal of the 5'-dimethoxy (DMTr) protecting group in situ and in good yields (up to 60% over three steps) to produce DNA dimers in one-pot manner. Sulphurization of phosphite triester linkages was possible using elemental sulfur yielding the corresponding phosphorothioate DNA dimers in good yield (up to 80% over two steps). By using H-phosphonate chemistry under milling conditions, it was possible to couple, protect the H-phosphonate linkage, and remove the 5'-DMTr protecting group in situ, enabling an one-pot process with good yields comparable to existing solvent-based procedures (up to 65% over three steps, or ca. 87% per step). This work opens the door to creation of solvent-free methodologies for the assembly of complex DNA and RNA therapeutics.