Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

David M. Chenoweth


Nucleic acids play a critical role in many biological processes such as gene regulation and replication. The development of small molecules that modulate nucleic acids with sequence or structure specificity would provide new strategies for regulating disease states at the nucleic acid level. However, this remains challenging mainly because of the nonspecific interactions between nucleic acids and small molecules. Three-way junctions are critical structural elements of nucleic acids. They are present in many important targets such as trinucleotide repeat junctions related to Huntington’s disease, a temperature sensor σ32 in E. coli, Dengue virus, and HIV. Triptycene-derived small molecules have been shown to bind to nucleic acid three-way junctions, resulting from their shape complementary. To develop a better understanding of designing molecules for targeting different junctions, a rapid screening of triptycene-based small molecules is needed. We envisioned that the installation of a linker at C9 position of the bicyclic core would allow for a rapid solid phase diversification. To achieve this aim, we synthesized 9-substituted triptycene scaffolds by using two different synthetic routes. The first synthetic route installed the linker from the amidation reaction between carboxylic acid at C9 position of the triptycene and an amine linker, β-alanine ethyl ester. This new 9-substituted triptycene scaffold was then attached to a 2-chlorotrityl chloride resin for solid-phase diversification. This enabled a rapid diversification and an easy purification of mono-, di-, and tri-peptide triptycene derivatives. The binding affinities of these compounds were investigated towards a (CAG)�(CTG) trinucleotide repeat junction. In the modified second synthetic route, we utilized a combined Heck coupling/benzyne Diels-Alder strategy. This improved synthetic strategy reduced the number of steps and total reaction times, increased the overall yield, improved solubilities of intermediates, and provided a new regioisomer that was not observed in the previous synthesis. Through this investigation, we discovered new high-affinity lead compounds towards a d(CAG)∙(CTG) trinucleotide repeat junction. In addition, we turned our attention to σ32 mRNA, which contains a RNA three-way junction in E. coli. We demonstrated that triptycene-based small molecules can modulate the heat shock response in E. coli.

Available for download on Saturday, August 15, 2020

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