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Biochemistry. 1999 Jan 5;38(1):496-508.

Effects of hydration, ion release, and excluded volume on the melting of triplex and duplex DNA.

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Department of Chemistry, State University of New York, Cortland 13045, USA.


The stability of DNA duplex and triplex structures not only depends on molecular forces such as base pairing or tripling or electrostatic interactions but also is sensitive to its aqueous environment. This paper presents data on the melting of Escherichia coli and poly(dA).poly(dT) duplex DNA and on the poly(dT).poly(dA). poly(dT) triplex in a variety of media to assess the contributions from the osmotic status and salt content of the media. The effects of volume exclusion on the stability of the DNA structures are also studied. From thermal transition measurements in the presence of low-molecular weight osmotic stressors, the number of water molecules released upon melting is found to be four waters per base pair for duplex melting and one water for the conversion of triplex to single-strand and duplex. The effects of Na+ counterion binding are also determined in ethylene glycol solutions so that the variation of counterion binding with water activity is evaluated. The data show that there is a modest decrease in the extent of counterion binding for both duplex and triplex as water activity decreases. Finally, using larger polyethylene glycol cosolutes, the effects on melting of volume exclusion by the solutes are assessed, and the results correlated with simple geometric models for the excluded volume. These results point out that DNA stability is sensitive to important conditions in the environment of the duplex or triplex, and thus, conformation and reactivity can be influenced by these solution conditions.

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