Disruption of energetic and dynamic base pairing cooperativity in DNA duplexes by an abasic site

B Ashwood and MS Jones and AL Ferguson and A Tokmakoff, PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 120, e2219124120 (2023).

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2219124120

DNA duplex stability arises from cooperative interactions between multiple adjacent nucleotides that favor base pairing and stacking when formed as a continuous stretch rather than individually. Lesions and nucleobase modifications alter this stability in complex manners that remain challenging to understand despite their centrality to biology. Here, we investigate how an abasic site destabilizes small DNA duplexes and reshapes base pairing dynamics and hybridization pathways using temperature-jump infrared spectroscopy and coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations. We show how an abasic site splits the cooperativity in a short duplex into two segments, which destabilizes small duplexes as a whole and enables metastable half-dissociated configurations. Dynamically, it introduces an additional barrier to hybridization by constraining the hybridization mechanism to a step-wise process of nucleating and zipping a stretch on one side of the abasic site and then the other.

Return to Publications page