Site-specific chemical modification of mRNA can improve its translational efficiency and stability. For this purpose, it is desirable to develop a complete chemical synthesis method for chemically modified mRNA. The key is a chemical reaction that introduces a cap structure into the chemically synthesized RNA. In this study, we developed a fast and quantitative chemical capping reaction between 5′-phosphorylated RNA and N7-methylated GDP imidazolide in the presence of 1-methylimidazole in the organic solvent dimethyl sulfoxide. It enabled quantitative preparation of capping RNA within 3 h. We prepared chemically modified 107-nucleotide mRNAs, including N6-methyladenosine, insertion of non-nucleotide linkers, and 2′-O-methylated nucleotides at the 5′ end and evaluated their effects on translational activity in cultured HeLa cells. The results showed that mRNAs with non-nucleotide linkers in the untranslated regions were sufficiently tolerant to translation and that mRNAs with the Cap_2 structure had higher translational activity than those with the Cap_0 structure.
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