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Biopolymers. 1997;44(1):45-63.

Crystal structures of A-DNA duplexes.

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  • 1Ohio State University, Department of Chemistry, Columbus 43210-1002, USA.


All crystal structures of A-DNA duplexes exhibit a typical crystal packing, with the termini of one molecule abutting the shallow grooves of symmetry related neighbors, while all other forms (B, Z, and RNA) tend to form infinitely stacked helices. The A-DNA arrangement leads to the formation of shallow groove base multiples that have implications for the structure of DNA in compacted states. The characteristic packing leaves big solvent channels, which can be sometimes occupied by B-DNA duplexes. Comparisons of the structures of the same oligomer crystallizing in two different space groups and of different sequences crystallizing in the same space group show that the lattice forces dominate the A-DNA conformation in the crystals, complicating the effort to elucidate the influence of the base sequence on the structures. Nevertheless, in both alternating and nonalternating fragments some sequence effects can still be uncovered. Furthermore, several studies have started to define the minimal sequence changes or chemical modifications that can interconvert the oligomers between different double-helical conformers (A-, B-, and Z-form). Overall, it is seen that the rigid nucleotide principle applies to the oligomeric fragments. Besides the structures of the naked DNAs, their interactions with water, polyamines, and metal ions have attracted considerable attention. There are conserved patterns in the hydration, involving both the grooves and the backbone, which are different from those of B-DNA or Z-DNA. Overall, A-DNA seems to be more economically hydrated than B-DNA, particularly around the sugar-phosphate backbone. Spermine was found to be able to bind exclusively to either of the grooves or to the phosphate groups of the backbone, or exhibit a mixed binding mode. The located metal cations prefer binding to guanine bases and phosphate groups. The only mispairs investigated in A-DNA are the wobble pairs, yielding structural insight into their effects on helix stabilities and hydration. G.T wobble pairs have been determined in various sequence contexts, where they differentially affect the conformations and stableness of the duplexes. The structure of a G.m5C base pair, which surprisingly also adopted the wobble conformation, suggests that a similar geometry may transiently exist for G.C pairs. These results from the crystalline state will be compared to the solution state and discussed in relation to their relevance in biology.

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