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Nucleic Acids Res. 2012 Sep;40(16):7622-32. doi: 10.1093/nar/gks517. Epub 2012 Jun 1.

A large-scale association study for nanoparticle C60 uncovers mechanisms of nanotoxicity disrupting the native conformations of DNA/RNA.

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Center of Bioinformatics, College of Life Science, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100, China.


Nano-scale particles have attracted a lot of attention for its potential use in medical studies, in particular for the diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. However, the toxicity and other side effects caused by the undesired interaction between nanoparticles and DNA/RNA are not clear. To address this problem, a model to evaluate the general rules governing how nanoparticles interact with DNA/RNA is demanded. Here by, use of an examination of 2254 native nucleotides with molecular dynamics simulation and thermodynamic analysis, we demonstrate how the DNA/RNA native structures are disrupted by the fullerene (C60) in a physiological condition. The nanoparticle was found to bind with the minor grooves of double-stranded DNA and trigger unwinding and disrupting of the DNA helix, which indicates C60 can potentially inhibit the DNA replication and induce potential side effects. In contrast to that of DNA, C60 only binds to the major grooves of RNA helix, which stabilizes the RNA structure or transforms the configuration from stretch to curl. This finding sheds new light on how C60 inhibits reverse transcription as HIV replicates. In addition, the binding of C60 stabilizes the structures of RNA riboswitch, indicating that C60 might regulate the gene expression. The binding energies of C60 with different genomic fragments varies in the range of -56 to -10 kcal mol(-1), which further verifies the role of nanoparticle in DNA/RNA damage. Our findings reveal a general mode by which C60 causes DNA/RNA damage or other toxic effects at a systematic level, suggesting it should be cautious to handle these nanomaterials in various medical applications.

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