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Biophys J. 1996 Dec;71(6):3350-60.

DNA melting investigated by differential scanning calorimetry and Raman spectroscopy.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Minnesota, St. Paul 55108, USA.


Thermal denaturation of the B form of double-stranded DNA has been probed by differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and Raman spectroscopy of 160 base pair (bp) fragments of calf thymus DNA. The DSC results indicate a median melting temperature Tm = 75.5 degrees C with calorimetric enthalpy change delta Hcal = 6.7 kcal/mol (bp), van't Hoff enthalpy change delta HVH = 50.4 kcal/mol (cooperative unit), and calorimetric entropy change delta Scal = 19.3 cal/deg.mol (bp), at the experimental conditions of 55 mg DNA/ml in 5 mM sodium cacodylate at pH 6.4. The average cooperative melting unit (nmelt) comprises 7.5 bp. The Raman signature of 160 bp DNA is highly sensitive to temperature. Analyses of several conformation-sensitive Raman bands indicate the following ranges for thermodynamic parameters of melting: 43 < delta HVH < 61 kcal/mol (cooperative unit), 75 < Tm < 80 degrees C and 6 < (nmelt) < 9 bp, consistent with the DSC results. The changes observed in specific Raman band frequencies and intensities as a function of temperature reveal that thermal denaturation is accompanied by disruption of Watson-Crick base pairs, unstacking of the bases and disordering of the B form backbone. These three types of structural change are highly correlated throughout the investigated temperature range of 20 to 93 degrees C. Raman bands diagnostic of purine and pyrimidine unstacking, conformational rearrangements in the deoxyribose-phosphate moieties, and changes in environment of phosphate groups have been identified. Among these, bands at 834 cm-1 (due to a localized vibration of the phosphodiester group), 1240 cm-1 (thymine ring) and 1668 cm-1 (carbonyl groups of dT, dG and dC), are shown by comparison with DSC results to be the most reliable quantitative indicators of DNA melting. Conversely, the intensities of Raman marker bands at 786 cm-1 (cytosine ring), 1014 cm-1 (deoxyribose ring) and 1092 cm-1 (phosphate group) are largely invariant to melting and are proposed as appropriate standards for intensity normalizations.

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