New insights into Hoogsteen base pairs in DNA duplexes from a structure-based survey.

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Hoogsteen (HG) base pairs (bps) provide an alternative pairing geometry to Watson-Crick (WC) bps and can play unique functional roles in duplex DNA. Here, we use structural features unique to HG bps (syn purine base, HG hydrogen bonds and constricted C1'-C1' distance across the bp) to search for HG bps in X-ray structures of DNA duplexes in the Protein Data Bank. The survey identifies 106 A•T and 34 G•C HG bps in DNA duplexes, many of which are undocumented in the literature. It also uncovers HG-like bps with syn purines lacking HG hydrogen bonds or constricted C1'-C1' distances that are analogous to conformations that have been proposed to populate the WC-to-HG transition pathway. The survey reveals HG preferences similar to those observed for transient HG bps in solution by nuclear magnetic resonance, including stronger preferences for A•T versus G•C bps, TA versus GG steps, and also suggests enrichment at terminal ends with a preference for 5'-purine. HG bps induce small local perturbations in neighboring bps and, surprisingly, a small but significant degree of DNA bending (∼14°) directed toward the major groove. The survey provides insights into the preferences and structural consequences of HG bps in duplex DNA.





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Zhou, H, BJ Hintze, IJ Kimsey, B Sathyamoorthy, S Yang, JS Richardson and HM Al-Hashimi (2015). New insights into Hoogsteen base pairs in DNA duplexes from a structure-based survey. Nucleic Acids Res, 43(7). pp. 3420–3433. 10.1093/nar/gkv241 Retrieved from

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Jane Shelby Richardson

James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Medicine

3D structure of macromolecules; molecular graphics; protein folding and design; all-atom contacts; x-ray crystallography; structure validation.


Hashim Al-Hashimi

Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biochemistry

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