Conformation-dependent DNA attraction

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Understanding how DNA molecules interact with other biomolecules is related to how they utilize their functions and is therefore critical for understanding their structure-function relationships. For a long time, the existence of Z-form DNA (a left-handed double helical version of DNA, instead of the common right-handed B-form) has puzzled the scientists, and the definitive biological significance of Z-DNA has not yet been clarified. In this study, the effects of DNA conformation in DNA-DNA interactions are explored by molecular dynamics simulations. Using umbrella sampling, we find that for both B- and Z-form DNA, surrounding Mg2+ ions always exert themselves to screen the Coulomb repulsion between DNA phosphates, resulting in very weak attractive force. On the contrary, a tight and stable bound state is discovered for Z-DNA in the presence of Mg2+ or Na+, benefiting from their hydrophobic nature. Based on the contact surface and a dewetting process analysis, a two-stage binding process of Z-DNA is outlined: two Z-DNA first attract each other through charge screening and Mg2+ bridges to phosphate groups in the same way as that of B-DNA, after which hydrophobic contacts of the deoxyribose groups are formed via a dewetting effect, resulting in stable attraction between two Z-DNA molecules. The highlighted hydrophobic nature of Z-DNA interaction from the current study may help to understand the biological functions of Z-DNA in gene transcription. © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2014.


21 Jun 2014