Background: Despite its stiffness, duplex DNA is extensively bent and folded during packaging and gene expression in biological systems. Modulation of the electrostatic repulsion between phosphates in the DNA backbone may be important in the bending of DNA by proteins. Here, we analyze the shape of DNA molecules that have been modified chemically to mimic the electrostatic consequences of a bound protein. Results: We have simulated salt bridges between DNA phosphates and cationic amino acid sidechains of a phantom protein by tethering ammonium cations to one face of the DNA helix. Tethered ammonium cations, but not neutral acetylated controls, induce DNA to bend toward its neutralized surface. Conclusions: The shape of DNA molecules bearing a laterally-asymmetric distribution of tethered cations agrees qualitatively with theoretical predictions and with results previously obtained using neutral phosphate analogs. These data suggest principles that might be applied to the design of artificial DNA-bending proteins.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Medicine
- Molecular Biology
- Drug Discovery
- Clinical Biochemistry