Protonated base pairs explain the ambiguous pairing properties of O6-methylguanine.
The base-pairing interactions of promutagenic O6-methylguanine (O6-MeGua) with cytosine and thymine in deuterated chloroform were investigated by 1H NMR spectroscopy. Nucleosides were derivatized at hydroxyl positions with triisopropylsilyl groups to obtain solubility in nonaqueous solvents and to prevent the ribose hydroxyls from forming hydrogen bonds. We were able to observe hydrogen-bonding interactions between nucleic acid bases in a solvent of low dielectric constant, a condition that approximates the hydrophobic interior of the DNA helix. O6-MeGua was observed to form a hydrogen-bonded mispair with thymine. Whereas O6-MeGua did not form hydrogen bonds with cytosine (via usual, wobble, or unusual tautomeric structures), it did form a 1:1 hydrogen-bonded complex with protonated cytosine. The pairing of unprotonated cytosine in chloroform is thus consistent with the known preference of O6-MeGua for thymine over cytosine in polymerase reactions. In contrast, the pairing of protonated cytosine is consistent with the greater stability of oligonucleotide duplexes containing cytosine.O6-MeGua as compared with thymine.O6-MeGua base pairs [Gaffney, B. L., Markey, L. A. & Jones, R. A. (1984) Biochemistry 23, 5686-5691]. Our observation that cytosine must be protonated in order to pair with O6-MeGua suggests that the cytosine.O6-MeGua base pair in DNA is stabilized by protonation of cytosine. Through this mechanism, methylation at the O6 position of guanine in double-stranded DNA could promote cross-strand deamination of cytosine (or 5-methylcytosine) to produce uracil (or thymine).
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