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J Am Chem Soc. 2006 May 10;128(18):6070-4.

Emergent functionality of nucleobase radical cations in duplex DNA: prediction of reactivity using qualitative potential energy landscapes.

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  • 1School of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia 30332, USA.


The one-electron oxidation of a series of DNA oligonucleotides was examined. Each oligomer contains a covalently linked anthraquinone (AQ) group. Irradiation of the AQ group with near-UV light results in a one-electron oxidation of the DNA that generates a radical cation (electron "hole"). The radical cation migrates through the DNA by a hopping mechanism and is trapped by reaction with water or molecular oxygen, which results in chemical reaction at particular nucleobases. This reaction is revealed as strand cleavage when the irradiated oligonucleotide is treated with piperidine. The specific oligomers examined reveal the existence of three categories of nucleobase sequences: charge shuttles, charge traps, and barriers to charge migration. The characterization of a sequence is not independent of the identity of other sequences in the oligonucleotide, and for this reason, the function of a particular sequence emerges from an analysis of the entire structure. Qualitative potential energy landscapes are introduced as a tool to assist in the rationalization and prediction of the reactions of nucleobases in oxidized DNA.

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