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Annu Rev Biophys Biomol Struct. 2003;32:27-45. Epub 2003 Feb 14.

Cations as hydrogen bond donors: a view of electrostatic interactions in DNA.

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Departament d'Enginyeria Quimica, Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.


Cations are bound to nucleic acids in a solvated state. High-resolution X-ray diffraction studies of oligonucleotides provide a detailed view of Mg2+, and occasionally other ions bound to DNA. In a survey of several such structures, certain general observations emerge. First, cations bind preferentially to the guanine base in the major groove or to phosphate group oxygen atoms. Second, cations interact with DNA most frequently via water molecules in their primary solvation shell, direct ion-DNA contacts being only rarely observed. Thus, the solvated ions should be viewed as hydrogen bond donors in addition to point charges. Finally, ion interaction sites are readily exchangeable: The same site may be occupied by any ion, including spermine, as well as by a water molecule.

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