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Nucleic Acids Res. 1992 Feb 25;20(4):819-24.

Thermodynamic parameters for loop formation in RNA and DNA hairpin tetraloops.

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Department of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley 94720.


We determined the melting temperatures (Tm) and thermodynamic parameters of 15 RNA and 19 DNA hairpins at 1 M NaCl, 0.01 M sodium phosphate, 0.1 mM EDTA, at pH 7. All these hairpins have loops of four bases, the most common loop size in 16S and 23S ribosomal RNAs. The RNA hairpins varied in loop sequence, loop-closing base pair (A.U, C.G, or G.C), base sequence of the stem, and stem size (four or five base pairs). The DNA hairpins varied in loop sequence, loop-closing base pair (C.G, or G.C), and base sequence of the four base-pair stem. Thermodynamic properties of a hairpin may be represented by nearest-neighbor interactions of the stem plus contributions from the loop. Thus, we obtained thermodynamic parameters for the formation of RNA and DNA tetraloops. For the tetraloops we studied, a free energy of loop formation (at 37 degrees C) of about +3 kcal/mol is most common for either RNA or DNA. There are extra stable loops with delta G degrees 37 near +1 kcal/mol, but the sequences are not necessarily the same for RNA and DNA. The closing base pair is also important; changing from C.G to G.C lowered the stability of several tetraloops in both RNA and DNA. These values will be useful in predicting RNA and DNA secondary structures.

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