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Biochemistry. 2002 Jan 22;41(3):760-71.

N(4)C-ethyl-N(4)C cross-linked DNA: synthesis and characterization of duplexes with interstrand cross-links of different orientations.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, 615 North Wolfe Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.


The preparation and physical properties of short DNA duplexes that contain a N(4)C-ethyl-N(4)C interstrand cross-link are described. Duplexes that contain an interstrand cross-link between mismatched C-C residues and duplexes in which the C residues of a -CG- or -GC- step are linked to give "staggered" interstrand cross-links were prepared using a novel N(4)C-ethyl-N(4)C phosphoramidite reagent. Duplexes with the C-C mismatch cross-link have UV thermal transition temperatures that are 25 degrees C higher than the melting temperatures of control duplexes in which the cross-link is replaced with a G-C base pair. It appears that this cross-link stabilizes adjacent base pairs and does not perturb the structure of the helix, a conclusion that is supported by the CD spectrum of this duplex and by molecular models. An even higher level of stabilization, 49 degrees C, is seen with the duplex that contains a -CG- staggered cross-link. Molecular models suggest that this cross-link may induce propeller twisting in the cross-linked base pairs, and the CD spectrum of this duplex exhibits an unusual negative band at 298 nm, although the remainder of the spectrum is similar to that of B-form DNA. Mismatched C-C or -CG- staggered cross-linked duplexes that have complementary overhanging ends can undergo self-ligation catalyzed by T4 DNA ligase. Analysis of the ligated oligomers by nondenaturing polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis shows that the resulting oligomers migrate in a manner similar to that of a mixture of non-cross-linked control oligomers and suggests that these cross-links do not result in significant bending of the helix. However, the orientation of the staggered cross-link can have a significant effect on the structure and stability of the cross-linked duplex. Thus, the thermal stability of the duplex that contains a -GC- staggered cross-link is 10 degrees C lower than the melting temperature of the control, non-cross-linked duplex. Unlike the -CG- staggered cross-link, in which the cross-linked base pairs can still maintain hydrogen bond contacts, molecular models suggest that formation of the -GC- staggered cross-link disrupts hydrogen bonding and may also perturb adjacent base pairs leading to an overall reduction in helix stability. Duplexes with specifically positioned and oriented cross-links can be used as substrates to study DNA repair mechanisms.

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