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Biophys J. 2013 May 21;104(10):2235-45. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2013.04.004.

RPA-mediated unfolding of systematically varying G-quadruplex structures.

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Physics Department, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio, USA.


G-quadruplex (GQ) is a noncanonical nucleic acid structure that is formed by guanine rich sequences. Unless it is destabilized by proteins such as replication protein A (RPA), GQ could interfere with DNA metabolic functions, such as replication or repair. We studied RPA-mediated GQ unfolding using single-molecule FRET on two groups of GQ structures that have different loop lengths and different numbers of G-tetrad layers. We observed a linear increase in the steady-state stability of the GQ against RPA-mediated unfolding with increasing number of layers or decreasing loop length. The stability demonstrated by different GQ structures varied by at least three orders of magnitude. Those with shorter loops (less than three nucleotides long) or a greater number of layers (more than three layers) maintained a significant folded population even at physiological RPA concentration (≈1 μM), raising the possibility of physiological viability of such GQ structures. Finally, we measured the transition time between the start and end of the RPA-mediated GQ unfolding process to be 0.35 ± 0.10 s for all GQ constructs we studied, despite significant differences in their steady-state stabilities. We propose a two-step RPA-mediated GQ unfolding mechanism that is consistent with our observations.

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