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J Am Chem Soc. 2006 Jun 21;128(24):7957-63.

Hydration regulates thermodynamics of G-quadruplex formation under molecular crowding conditions.

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  • 1Frontier Institute for Biomolecular Engineering Research (FIBER), Konan University, 8-9-1 Okamoto, Higashinada-ku, Kobe 658-8501, Japan.


The effect of molecular crowding on the structure and stability of biomolecules has become a subject of increasing interest because it can clarify how biomolecules behave under cell-mimicking conditions. Here, we quantitatively analyzed the effects of molecular crowding on the thermodynamics of antiparallel G-quadruplex formation via Hoogsteen base pairs and of antiparallel hairpin-looped duplex (HP duplex) formation via Watson-Crick base pairs. The free energy change at 25 degrees C for G-quadruplex formation decreased from -3.5 to -5.5 kcal mol(-1) when the concentration of poly(ethylene glycol) 200 was increased from 0 to 40 wt %, whereas that of duplex formation increased from -9.8 to -6.9 kcal mol(-1). These results showed that the antiparallel G-quadruplex is stabilized under molecular crowding conditions, but that the HP duplex is destabilized. Moreover, plots of stability (ln K(obs)) of the DNA structures versus water activity (ln a(w)) demonstrated that the ln K(obs) for G-quadruplex formation decreased linearly as the ln a(w) increased, whereas that for duplex formation increased linearly with the increase in ln a(w), suggesting that the slope approximately equals the number of water molecules released or taken up during the formation of these structures. Thus, molecular crowding affects the thermodynamics of DNA structure formation by altering the hydration of the DNA. The stabilization of the DNA structures with Hoogsteen base pairs and destabilization of DNA structures with Watson-Crick base pairs under molecular crowding conditions lead to structural polymorphism of DNA sequences regulated by the state of hydration.

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