Research Articles

Helix geometry, hydration, and G.A mismatch in a B-DNA decamer

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Science  23 Oct 1987:
Vol. 238, Issue 4826, pp. 498-504
DOI: 10.1126/science.3310237


The DNA double helix is not a regular, featureless barberpole molecule. Different base sequences have their own special signature, in the way that they influence groove width, helical twist, bending, and mechanical rigidity or resistance to bending. These special features probably help other molecules such as repressors to read and recognize one base sequence in preference to another. Single crystal x-ray structure analysis is beginning to show us the various structures possible in the B-DNA family. The DNA decamer C-C-A-A-G-A-T-T-G-G appears to be a better model for mixed-sequence B-DNA than was the earlier C-G-C-G-A-A-T-T-C-G-C-G, which is more akin to regions of poly(dA).poly(dT). The G.A mismatch base pairs at the center of the decamer are in the anti-anti conformation about their bonds from base to sugar, in agreement with nuclear magnetic resonance evidence on this and other sequences, and in contrast to the anti-syn geometry reported for G.A pairs in C-G-C-G-A-A-T-T-A-G-C-G. The ordered spine of hydration seen earlier in the narrow-grooved dodecamer has its counterpart, in this wide-grooved decamer, in two strings of water molecules lining the walls of the minor groove, bridging from purine N3 or pyrimidine O2, to the following sugar O4'. The same strings of hydration are present in the phosphorothioate analog of G-C-G-C-G-C. Unlike the spine, which is broken up by the intrusion of amine groups at guanines, these water strings are found in general, mixed-sequence DNA because they can pass by unimpeded to either side of a guanine N2 amine. The spine and strings are perceived as two extremes of a general pattern of hydration of the minor groove, which probably is the dominant factor in making B-DNA the preferred form at high hydration.

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