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Biochemistry. 2008 Mar 18;47(11):3389-96. doi: 10.1021/bi702013d. Epub 2008 Feb 26.

Structural diversity and extreme stability of unimolecular Oxytricha nova telomeric G-quadruplex.

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Department of Physics and Astronomy, Seoul National University, San 56-1, Shillimdong, Kwanakgu, Seoul, 151-742, South Korea.


Oxytricha nova telomeric DNA contains guanine-rich short-tandem repeat sequences (GGGGTTTT) n and terminates as a single strand at the 3'-end. This single-stranded overhang forms a novel DNA structure, namely, G-quadruplex, comprising four quartets. In this study, we investigated the structures and dynamics of unimolecular Oxytricha nova ( O. nova) telomeric G-quadruplexes by performing single molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) spectroscopy and bulk circular dichroism (CD) measurements. We observed that unimolecular O. nova G-quadruplexes exhibit structural polymorphism according to monovalent cations. In the presence of Na (+), only antiparallel conformation is detected, which was demonstrated in previous studies; however, in the presence of K (+), they fold into two different conformations, a parallel conformation and an antiparallel one different from that induced by Na (+). Furthermore, these G-quadruplexes show extremely high stability in their dynamics when compared with human G-quadruplexes. While human telomeric G-quadruplexes that possess three quartets display fast dynamic behavior (<100 s) at low K (+) concentrations or high temperatures, O. nova G-quadruplexes maintain their conformational state for a long time (>1000 s), even at the lowest K (+) concentration and the highest temperature investigated. This high stability is primarily due to an extra quartet that results in additional cation coordination. In addition to cation coordination, we propose that other factors such as base stacking and the size of the thymine loop may contribute to the stability of O. nova G-quadruplexes; this is based on the fact that the O. nova G-quadruplexes were observed to be more stable than the human ones in the presence of Li (+), which is known to greatly destabilize G-quadruplexes because of imprecise coordination. This extreme stability of four-quartet G-quadruplexes enables telomere protection even in the absence of protective proteins or in the case of abrupt environmental changes, although only a single G-quadruplex structure can be derived from the short single-stranded overhang.

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