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J Mol Biol. 2000 Jan 7;295(1):85-103.

Sequence-dependent DNA structure: tetranucleotide conformational maps.

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  • 1University of Sheffield, Sheffield, S3 7HF, England. M.J.Packer@sheffield.ac.uk


A database of X-ray crystal structures of double helical DNA oligomers has been used to analyse the role of the sugar-phosphate backbone in coupling the conformational properties of neighbouring dinucleotide steps. The base step parameters which are most strongly coupled to the backbone degrees of freedom are slide and shift, and these are the two dinucleotide step parameters which show strong correlations along a sequence: the value of slide follows the values in the neighbouring steps, whereas shift tends to alternate. This conformational coupling is mediated by the shared furanose rings at the step junctions: a change in the value of slide causes a change in the mean value of the same strand 3' and 5'-chi torsion angle, and a change in the mean value of the 3' and 5' sugar pseudo-rotation phase angle, P; a change in the value of shift causes a difference between the same strand 3' and 5'-chi in A-DNA and a difference between the 3' and 5'-P in B-DNA. We have used a database of tetranucleotide X-ray crystal structures to parameterise a simple model for the coupling of slide and shift. Using this junction model together with our dinucleotide step potential energy maps described previously, we can in principle calculate the structure of any DNA oligomer. The parameterisation indicates that the rotational step parameters are accurate to within 5 degrees, and the translational step parameters are accurate to within 0.5 A. The model has been used to study the potential energy surfaces of all possible tetranucleotide sequences, and the calculations agree well with the experimental data from X-ray crystal structures. Some dinucleotide steps are context independent (AA/TT, AT and TA), because the conformational properties of all possible neighbouring steps are compatible. When the conformational properties of the neighbours are not compatible, the behaviour of a step cannot be understood at the dinucleotide level. Thus the conformations of CG, GC and GG/CC are all strongly context dependent. The remaining mixed sequence steps show weakly context-dependent behaviour. The approach allows the calculation of the relative stability and flexibility of tetranucleotide sequences, and the results indicate why TATA is used as an origin of replication. Clear predictions are made about sequences which have not yet been characterised crystallographically. In particular, poly(CCA).poly(TGG) is predicted to have an unusual structure which lies between the C and D-DNA polymorphs.

Copyright 2000 Academic Press.

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