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Biophys J. 1993 May;64(5):1385-93.

Synergistic effects in the melting of DNA hydration shell: melting of the minor groove hydration spine in poly(dA).poly(dT) and its effect on base pair stability.

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Department of Physics, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907.


We propose that water of hydration in contact with the double helix can exist in several states. One state, found in the narrow groove of poly(dA).poly(dT), should be considered as frozen to the helix, i.e., an integral part of the double helix. We find that this enhanced helix greatly effects the stability of that helix against base separation melting. Most water surrounding the helix is, however, melted or disassociated with respect to being an integral part of helix and plays a much less significant role in stabilizing the helix dynamically, although these water molecules play an important role in stabilizing the helix conformation statically. We study the temperature dependence of the melting of the hydration spine and find that narrow groove nonbonded interactions are necessary to stabilize the spine above room temperature and to show the broad transition observed experimentally. This calculation requires that synergistic effects of nonbonded interactions between DNA and its hydration shell affect the state of water-base atom hydrogen bonds. The attraction of waters into narrow groove tends to retain waters in the groove and compress or strain these hydrogen bonds.

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