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Biophys J. 2004 Jul;87(1):215-26.

Prediction of hybridization and melting for double-stranded nucleic acids.

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Department of Mathematical Sciences, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York 12180, USA.


This article presents a general statistical mechanical approach to describe self-folding together with the hybridization between a pair of finite length DNA or RNA molecules. The model takes into account the entire ensemble of single- and double-stranded species in solution and their mole fractions at different temperatures. The folding and hybridization models deal with matched pairs, mismatches, symmetric and asymmetric interior loops, bulges, and single-base stacking that might exist at duplex ends or at the ends of helices. All possible conformations of the single- and double-stranded species are explored. Only intermolecular basepairs are considered in duplexes at this stage.In particular we focus on the role of stacking between neighboring nucleotide residues of single unfolded strands as an important source of enthalpy change on helix formation which has not been modeled computationally thus far. Changes in the states of the single strands with temperature are shown to lead to a larger heat effect at higher temperature. An important consequence of this is that predictions of enthalpies, which are based on databases of nearest-neighbor energy parameters determined for molecules or duplexes with lower melting temperatures compared with the melting temperatures of the oligos for which they are used as a predictive tool, will be underestimated.

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