Molecular dynamics analysis of stabilities of the telomeric Watson-Crick duplex and the associated i-motif as a function of pH and temperature

T Panczyk and P Wolski, BIOPHYSICAL CHEMISTRY, 237, 22-30 (2018).

DOI: 10.1016/j.bpc.2018.03.006

This work deals with a molecular dynamics analysis of the protonated and deprotonated states of the natural sequence d(CCCTAA)(3)CCCT of the telomeric DNA forming the intercalated i-motif or paired with the sequence d(CCCTAA)(3)CCCT and forming the Watson-Crick (WC) duplex. By utilizing the amber force field for nucleic acids we built the i-motif and the WC duplex either with native cytosines or using their protonated forms. We studied, by applying molecular dynamics simulations, the role of hydrogen bonds between cytosines or in cytosine-guanine pairs in the stabilization of both structures in the physiological fluid. We found that hydrogen bonds exist in the case of protonated i-motif and in the standard form of the WC duplex. They, however, vanish in the case of the deprotonated i-motif and protonated form of the WC duplex. By determining potentials of mean force in the enforced unwrapping of these structures we found that the protonated i-motif is thermodynamically the most stable. Its deprotonation leads to spontaneous and observed directly in the unbiased calculations unfolding of the i-motif to the hairpin structure at normal temperature. The WC duplex is stable in its standard form and its slight destabilization is observed at the acidic pH. However, the protonated WC duplex unwraps very slowly at 310 K and its decomposition was not observed in the unbiased calculations. At higher temperatures (ca. 400 K or more) the WC duplex unwraps spontaneously.

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