Biomimetic hydrolysis of DNA or RNA is of increasing importance in biotechnology and medicine. Most natural nuclease enzymes that mediate such reactions utilize metal ion cofactors. Recent progress in the design of synthetic metallonucleases has included complexes of antibiotics, peptides, nucleic acids, and other organic ligands. In this article, we review a number of synthetic catalyst systems that have been developed to achieve efficient DNA hydrolysis. Methods to evaluate their catalytic efficiencies are critically discussed, and a prognosis for future work in this area is presented.
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