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Nucleic Acids Res. 2010 Jan;38(1):327-38. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkp898. Epub 2009 Oct 25.

Molecular crowding creates an essential environment for the formation of stable G-quadruplexes in long double-stranded DNA.

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Laboratory of Biochemistry and Biophysics, College of Life Sciences, Wuhan University, Wuhan, PR China.


Large numbers of guanine-rich sequences with potential to form G-quadruplexes have been identified in genomes of various organisms. Such sequences are constrained at both ends by long DNA duplex with a complementary strand in close proximity to compete for duplex formation. G-quadruplex/duplex competition in long double-stranded DNA has rarely been studied. In this work, we used DMS footprinting and gel electrophoresis to study G-quadruplex formation in long double-stranded DNA derived from human genome under both dilute and molecular crowding condition created by PEG. G-quadruplex formation was observed in the process of RNA transcription and after heat denaturation/renaturation under molecular crowding condition. Our results showed that the heat denaturation/renaturation treatment followed by gel electrophoresis could provide a simple method to quantitatively access the ability of G-quadruplex formation in long double-stranded DNA. The effect of K(+) and PEG concentration was investigated and we found that stable G-quadruplexes could only form under the crowding condition with PEG at concentrations near the physiological concentration of biomass in living cells. This observation reveals a physical basis for the formation of stable G-quadruplexes in genome and supports its presence under the in vivo molecular crowding condition.

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