Absolute binding-free energies between standard RNA/DNA nucleobases and amino-acid sidechain analogs in different environments.
ABSTRACT: Despite the great importance of nucleic acid-protein interactions in the cell, our understanding of their physico-chemical basis remains incomplete. In order to address this challenge, we have for the first time determined potentials of mean force and the associated absolute binding free energies between all standard RNA/DNA nucleobases and amino-acid sidechain analogs in high- and low-dielectric environments using molecular dynamics simulations and umbrella sampling. A comparison against a limited set of available experimental values for analogous systems attests to the quality of the computational approach and the force field used. Overall, our analysis provides a microscopic picture behind nucleobase/sidechain interaction preferences and creates a unified framework for understanding and sculpting nucleic acid-protein interactions in different contexts. Here, we use this framework to demonstrate a strong relationship between nucleobase density profiles of mRNAs and nucleobase affinity profiles of their cognate proteins and critically analyze a recent hypothesis that the two may be capable of direct, complementary interactions.
Project description:Many critical processes in the cell involve direct binding between RNAs and proteins, making it imperative to fully understand the physicochemical principles behind such interactions at the atomistic level. Here, we use molecular dynamics simulations and 15 ?s of sampling to study the behavior of amino acids and amino acid sidechain analogs in high-concentration aqueous solutions of standard RNA nucleobases. Structural and energetic analysis of simulated systems allows us to derive interaction propensity scales for different amino acid/nucleobase combinations. The derived scales closely match and greatly extend the available experimental data, providing a comprehensive foundation for studying RNA-protein interactions in different contexts. By using these scales, we demonstrate a statistically significant connection between nucleobase composition of human mRNA coding sequences and nucleobase interaction propensities of their cognate protein sequences. For example, pyrimidine density profiles of mRNAs match uracil-propensity profiles of their cognate proteins with a median Pearson correlation coefficient of R = -0.70. Our results provide support for the recently proposed hypotheses that mRNAs and their cognate proteins may be physicochemically complementary to each other and bind, especially if unstructured, with the complementarity level being negatively influenced by mRNA adenine content. Finally, we utilize the derived scales to refine the complementarity hypothesis and closely examine its physicochemical underpinnings.
Project description:The conditions that led to the formation of the first organisms and the ways that life originates from a lifeless chemical soup are poorly understood. The recent hypothesis of "RNA-peptide coevolution" suggests that the current close relationship between amino acids and nucleobases may well have extended to the origin of life. We now show how the interplay between these compound classes can give rise to new self-replicating molecules using a dynamic combinatorial approach. We report two strategies for the fabrication of chimeric amino acid/nucleobase self-replicating macrocycles capable of exponential growth. The first one relies on mixing nucleobase- and peptide-based building blocks, where the ligation of these two gives rise to highly specific chimeric ring structures. The second one starts from peptide nucleic acid (PNA) building blocks in which nucleobases are already linked to amino acids from the start. While previously reported nucleic acid-based self-replicating systems rely on presynthesis of (short) oligonucleotide sequences, self-replication in the present systems start from units containing only a single nucleobase. Self-replication is accompanied by self-assembly, spontaneously giving rise to an ordered one-dimensional arrangement of nucleobase nanostructures.
Project description:We propose a new approach for force field optimizations which aims at reproducing dynamics characteristics using biomolecular MD simulations, in addition to improved prediction of motionally averaged structural properties available from experiment. As the source of experimental data for dynamics fittings, we use (13) C NMR spin-lattice relaxation times T1 of backbone and sidechain carbons, which allow to determine correlation times of both overall molecular and intramolecular motions. For structural fittings, we use motionally averaged experimental values of NMR J couplings. The proline residue and its derivative 4-hydroxyproline with relatively simple cyclic structure and sidechain dynamics were chosen for the assessment of the new approach in this work. Initially, grid search and simplexed MD simulations identified large number of parameter sets which fit equally well experimental J couplings. Using the Arrhenius-type relationship between the force constant and the correlation time, the available MD data for a series of parameter sets were analyzed to predict the value of the force constant that best reproduces experimental timescale of the sidechain dynamics. Verification of the new force-field (termed as AMBER99SB-ILDNP) against NMR J couplings and correlation times showed consistent and significant improvements compared to the original force field in reproducing both structural and dynamics properties. The results suggest that matching experimental timescales of motions together with motionally averaged characteristics is the valid approach for force field parameter optimization. Such a comprehensive approach is not restricted to cyclic residues and can be extended to other amino acid residues, as well as to the backbone.
Project description:Urea has long been used to investigate protein folding and, more recently, RNA folding. Studies have proposed that urea denatures RNA by participating in stacking interactions and hydrogen bonds with nucleic acid bases. In this study, the ability of urea to form unconventional stacking interactions with RNA bases is investigated using ab initio calculations (RI-MP2 and CCSD(T) methods with the aug-cc-pVDZ basis set). A total of 29 stable nucleobase-urea stacked complexes are identified in which the intermolecular interaction energies (up to -14 kcal/mol) are dominated by dispersion effects. Natural bond orbital (NBO) and atoms in molecules (AIM) calculations further confirm strong interactions between urea and nucleobases. Calculations on model systems with multiple urea and water molecules interacting with a guanine base lead to a hypothesis that urea molecules along with water are able to form cage-like structures capable of trapping nucleic acid bases in extrahelical states by forming both hydrogen-bonded and dispersion interactions, thereby contributing to the unfolding of RNA in the presence of urea in aqueous solution.
Project description:All terrestrial organisms depend on nucleic acids (RNA and DNA), which use pyrimidine and purine nucleobases to encode genetic information. Carbon-rich meteorites may have been important sources of organic compounds required for the emergence of life on the early Earth; however, the origin and formation of nucleobases in meteorites has been debated for over 50 y. So far, the few nucleobases reported in meteorites are biologically common and lacked the structural diversity typical of other indigenous meteoritic organics. Here, we investigated the abundance and distribution of nucleobases and nucleobase analogs in formic acid extracts of 12 different meteorites by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. The Murchison and Lonewolf Nunataks 94102 meteorites contained a diverse suite of nucleobases, which included three unusual and terrestrially rare nucleobase analogs: purine, 2,6-diaminopurine, and 6,8-diaminopurine. In a parallel experiment, we found an identical suite of nucleobases and nucleobase analogs generated in reactions of ammonium cyanide. Additionally, these nucleobase analogs were not detected above our parts-per-billion detection limits in any of the procedural blanks, control samples, a terrestrial soil sample, and an Antarctic ice sample. Our results demonstrate that the purines detected in meteorites are consistent with products of ammonium cyanide chemistry, which provides a plausible mechanism for their synthesis in the asteroid parent bodies, and strongly supports an extraterrestrial origin. The discovery of new nucleobase analogs in meteorites also expands the prebiotic molecular inventory available for constructing the first genetic molecules.
Project description:Nucleobase analogs 5-methylisocytosine ((Me)isoC) and isoguanine (isoG) form a non-natural base pair in duplex nucleic acids with base pairing specificity orthogonal to the natural nucleobase pairs. Sequencing reactions were conducted with oligodeoxyribonucleotides (ODNs) containing d(Me)isoC and disoG using modified pyrosequencing and dye terminator methods. Modified dye terminator sequencing was generally useful for the sequence identification of ODNs containing the non-natural nucleobases. The two sequencing methods were also used to monitor nucleotide incorporation and subsequent extension by Family A polymerases used in the sequencing methods with a six-nucleobase system that includes d(Me)isoC and disoG. Nucleic acids containing the six-nucleobase system could be replicated well, but not as well as natural nucleic acids, especially in regions of high d(Me)isoC-disoG content. Challenges in replication with d(Me)isoC-disoG are consistent with nucleobase tautomerism in the insertion step and disrupted minor groove nucleobase pair-polymerase contacts in subsequent extension.
Project description:Formaldehyde is produced in cells by enzyme-catalysed demethylation reactions, including those occurring on N-methylated nucleic acids. Formaldehyde reacts with nucleobases to form N-hydroxymethylated adducts that may contribute to its toxicity/carcinogenicity when added exogenously, but the chemistry of these reactions has been incompletely defined. We report NMR studies on the reactions of formaldehyde with canonical/modified nucleobases. The results reveal that hydroxymethyl hemiaminals on endocyclic nitrogens, as observed with thymidine and uridine monophosphates, are faster to form than equivalent hemiaminals on exocyclic nitrogens; however, the exocyclic adducts, as formed with adenine, guanine and cytosine, are more stable in solution. Nucleic acid demethylase (FTO)-catalysed hydroxylation of (6-methyl)adenosine results in (6-hydroxymethyl)adenosine as the major observed product; by contrast no evidence for a stable 3-hydroxymethyl adduct was accrued with FTO-catalysed oxidation of (3-methyl)thymidine. Collectively, our results imply N-hydroxymethyled adducts of nucleic acid bases, formed either by reactions with formaldehyde or via demethylase catalysis, have substantially different stabilities, with some being sufficiently stable to have functional roles in disease or the regulation of nucleic acid/nucleobase activity.
Project description:So far, there has been no report on molecularly resolved discrimination of single nucleobase mismatches using surface-confined single stranded locked nucleic acid (ssLNA) probes. Herein, it is exemplified using a label-independent force-sensing approach that an optimal coverage of 12-mer ssLNA sensor probes formed onto gold(111) surface allows recognition of ssDNA targets with twice stronger force sensitivity than 12-mer ssDNA sensor probes. The force distributions are reproducible and the molecule-by-molecule force measurements are largely in agreement with ensemble on-surface melting temperature data. Importantly, the molecularly resolved detection is responsive to the presence of single nucleobase mismatches in target sequences. Since the labelling steps can be eliminated from protocol, and each force-based detection event occurs within milliseconds' time scale, the force-sensing assay is potentially capable of rapid detection. The LNA probe performance is indicative of versatility in terms of substrate choice - be it gold (for basic research and array-based applications) or silicon (for 'lab-on-a-chip' type devices). The nucleic acid microarray technologies could therefore be generally benefited by adopting the LNA films, in place of DNA. Since LNA is nuclease-resistant, unlike DNA, and the LNA-based assay is sensitive to single nucleobase mismatches, the possibilities for label-free in vitro rapid diagnostics based on the LNA probes may be explored.
Project description:Molecular tips in scanning tunneling microscopy can directly detect intermolecular electron tunneling between sample and tip molecules and reveal the tunneling facilitation through chemical interactions that provide overlap of respective electronic wave functions, that is, hydrogen-bond, metal-coordination-bond, and charge-transfer interactions. Nucleobase molecular tips were prepared by chemical modification of underlying metal tips with thiol derivatives of adenine, guanine, cytosine, and uracil and the outmost single nucleobase adsorbate probes intermolecular electron tunneling to or from a sample nucleobase molecule. We found that the electron tunneling between a sample nucleobase and its complementary nucleobase molecular tip was much facilitated compared with its noncomplementary counterpart. The complementary nucleobase tip was thereby capable of electrically pinpointing each nucleobase. Chemically selective imaging using molecular tips may be coined "intermolecular tunneling microscopy" as its principle goes and is of general significance for novel molecular imaging of chemical identities at the membrane and solid surfaces.
Project description:Vibrational spectroscopy provides a powerful tool to probe the structure and dynamics of nucleic acids because specific normal modes, particularly the base carbonyl stretch modes, are highly sensitive to the hydrogen bonding patterns and stacking configurations in these biomolecules. In this work, we develop vibrational frequency maps for the C?O and C?C stretches in nucleobases that allow the calculations of their site frequencies directly from molecular dynamics simulations. We assess the frequency maps by applying them to nucleobase derivatives in aqueous solutions and nucleosides in organic solvents and demonstrate that the predicted infrared spectra are in good agreement with experimental measurements. The frequency maps can be readily used to model the linear and nonlinear vibrational spectroscopy of nucleic acids and elucidate the molecular origin of the experimentally observed spectral features.