An intercalation-locked parallel-stranded DNA tetraplex

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Nucleic Acids Research, 2015, Vol. 43, No. 3 1937–1944 doi: 10.1093/nar/gkv033


DNA has proved to be an excellent material for nanoscale construction because complementary DNA duplexes are programmable and structurally predictable. However, in the absence of Watson– Crick pairings, DNA can be structurally more diverse. Here, we describe the crystal structures of d(ACTCGGATGAT) and the brominated derivative, d(ACBrUCGGABrUGAT). These oligonucleotides form parallel-stranded duplexes with a crystallographically equivalent strand, resulting in the first examples of DNA crystal structures that contains four different symmetric homo base pairs. Two of the parallel-stranded duplexes are coaxially stacked in opposite directions and locked together to form a tetraplex through intercalation of the 5’-most A–A base pairs between adjacent G–G pairs in the partner duplex. The intercalation region is a new type of DNA tertiary structural motif with similarities to the i-motif. 1H–1H nuclear magnetic resonance and native gel electrophoresis confirmed the formation of a parallel-stranded duplex in solution. Finally, we modified specific nucleotide positions and added d(GAY) motifs to oligonucleotides and were readily able to obtain similar crystals. This suggests that this parallel-stranded DNA structure may be useful in the rational design of DNA crystals and nanostructures.


Funding for Open Access provided by the UMD Libraries Open Access Publishing Fund.