University of California, Riverside

Department of Chemistry




Christopher Switzer
Professor of Chemistry


Johns Hopkins University - Ph.D. (1986)
University of Geneva, Switzerland - Postdoc. Fellow (1987)
ETH, Switzerland - NSF Postdoc. Fellow (1988-1990)

Office: 436 Chemical Sciences
Phone O/L: (951) 827-7266/7280
Research Area: Organic Chemistry, Chemical Biology


DNA and RNA encode genetic information in all modern organisms. Nucleic acids are therefore central to life as we know it. Our laboratory seeks to define those molecular features of DNA and RNA that are essential for its function as a genetic material. Additional goals of this work include the creation of possible "missing links" in the evolution of modern nucleic acids from prebiotic reagents, and the engineering of nucleic acids that might contribute to synthetic biology.

A relatively new area of investigation for the Switzer laboratory relates to metal-mediated nucleobase pairs in DNA. Our efforts in this area have yielded what we colloquially refer to as 1st Gen, 2nd Gen, and 3rd Gen metal-mediated base-pairs that differ in terms of functionality appended to the purine or pyrimidine core (see Figure, below, where the natural nucleobase core is represented by bold lines). The functional moieties appended to our three metallo base-pair generations and the metal binding motif that results are, respectively: pyridine & bipyridine-like, bipyridine & terpyridine-like, and carboxylates & picolinate-like. Optimization of our metallo base pairs containing purine/pyrimidine cores through three generations has fueled two discoveries by our laboratory in the past few years: (1) the first reported DNA polymerase-catalyzed synthesis of a purely metal-mediated base-pair that is potentially orthogonal to the two natural base pairs, and (2) the first report of a possibly primitive (i.e., prebiotic) metal-mediated base-pair. We are now seeking to optimize the 3rd Gen metallo pair PurDC•Cu2+•3-Py for copying and replication in the presence of all four natural nucleotides to enable its use in PCR, and, potentially, synthetic organisms.


Selected Publications


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General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Department Information

Department of Chemistry
Chemical Sciences
501 Big Springs Road

Tel: (951) 827-3789 (Chair's Assistant)
Fax: (951) 827-2435 (confidential)