Energy Landscape and Pathways for Transitions between Watson-Crick and Hoogsteen Base Pairing in DNA.

04 Jun 2018

The recent discovery that Hoogsteen (HG) base pairs are widespread in DNA across diverse sequences and positional contexts could have important implications for understanding DNA replication and DNA-protein recognition. While evidence is emerging that the Hoogsteen conformation could be a thermodynamically accessible conformation of the DNA duplex and provide a means to expand its functionality, relatively little is known about the molecular mechanism underlying the Watson-Crick (WC) to HG transition. In this Perspective, we describe pathways and kinetics for this transition at an atomic level of detail, using the energy landscape perspective. We show that competition between the duplex conformations results in a double funnel landscape, which explains some recent experimental observations. The interconversion pathways feature a number of intermediates, with a variable number of WC and HG base pairs. The relatively slow kinetics, with possible deviations from two-state behavior, suggest that this conformational switch is likely to be a challenging target for both simulation and experiment.