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Biochemistry. 1998 Sep 15;37(37):12715-26.

A pseudosquare knot structure of DNA in solution.

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  • 1Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0446, USA.


We report a high-resolution NMR structure of a homodimer formed by a synthetic 25 residue DNA oligonucleotide GCTCCCATGGTTTTTGTGCACGAGC. This structure presents a novel structural motif for single-stranded nucleic acids, called a pseudosquare knot (PSQ). The oligonucleotide was originally designed to mimic a slipped-loop structure (SLS), another "unusual" DNA structure postulated as an alternative conformation for short direct repeats in double-stranded DNA. The design of the sequence is compatible with both SLS and PSQ structures, both of which possess identical sets of base-paired and unpaired nucleotides but different tertiary folds. We used deuteration of the H8 positions of purines to ascertain that the PSQ is actually formed under the conditions used. The PSQ structure was solved based on homonuclear proton nuclear Overhauser effect data using complete relaxation matrix methods. The structure essentially consists of two side-by-side helices connected by single-stranded loops. Each of the helices is well-defined; however, the relative orientation of the two remains undetermined by the NMR data. The sequences compatible with the PSQ formation are frequent in single-stranded genomes; this structure may play a role as a dimerization motif.

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