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J Mol Biol. 1995 Mar 17;247(1):34-48.

B-DNA twisting correlates with base-pair morphology.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, Rutgers State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick 08903.


The observed sequence dependence of the mean twist angles in 38 B-DNA crystal structures can be understood in terms of simple geometrical features of the constituent base-pairs. Structures with low twist appear to unwind in response to severe steric clashes of large exocyclic groups (such as NH2-NH2) in the major and minor grooves, while those with high twist are subjected to lesser contacts (H-O and H-H). We offer a simple clash function that depends on base-pair morphology (i.e. the chemical constitution of base-pairs) and satisfactorily accounts for the twist angles of the ten common Watson-Crick dimer steps both in the solid state and in solution. The twist-clash correlation that we find here still holds when extended to modified bases. In addition to Calladine's purine-purine clashes, we add other close contacts between bases in the grooves, and consider the conformational restrictions on the geometry of the sugar-phosphate backbone (namely, we emphasize the tendency of DNA to conserve virtual backbone length). The significance of this finding is threefold: (1) sequence-dependent DNA twisting is directly involved in protein-DNA interactions; (2) strong correlation between Twist and Roll helps to elucidate the bending of the double helix as a function of base sequence; (3) it is possible to anticipate the effects of chemical modifications on twisting and bending. The mutual correlations of other structural parameters with the twist make this angle a primary determinant of DNA conformational heterogeneity.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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