Measuring thermodynamic preferences to form non-native conformations in nucleic acids using ultraviolet melting.
Thermodynamic preferences to form non-native conformations are crucial for understanding how nucleic acids fold and function. However, they are difficult to measure experimentally because this requires accurately determining the population of minor low-abundance (<10%) conformations in a sea of other conformations. Here, we show that melting experiments enable facile measurements of thermodynamic preferences to adopt nonnative conformations in DNA and RNA. The key to this "delta-melt" approach is to use chemical modifications to render specific minor non-native conformations the major state. The validity and robustness of delta-melt is established for four different non-native conformations under various physiological conditions and sequence contexts through independent measurements of thermodynamic preferences using NMR. Delta-melt is faster relative to NMR, simple, and cost-effective and enables thermodynamic preferences to be measured for exceptionally low-populated conformations. Using delta-melt, we obtained rare insights into conformational cooperativity, obtaining evidence for significant cooperativity (1.0 to 2.5 kcal/mol) when simultaneously forming two adjacent Hoogsteen base pairs. We also measured the thermodynamic preferences to form G-C+ and A-T Hoogsteen and A-T base open states for nearly all 16 trinucleotide sequence contexts and found distinct sequence-specific variations on the order of 2 to 3 kcal/mol. This rich landscape of sequence-specific non-native minor conformations in the DNA double helix may help shape the sequence specificity of DNA biochemistry. Thus, melting experiments can now be used to access thermodynamic information regarding regions of the free energy landscape of biomolecules beyond the native folded and unfolded conformations.
Rangadurai, A; Shi, H; Xu, Y; Liu, B; Abou Assi, H; Boom, JD; Zhou, H; Kimsey, IJ; Al-Hashimi, HM
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