Article

A Spectroscopic Approach to Unravel the Local Conformations of a G-Quadruplex Using CD-Active Fluorescent Base Analogues

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Abstract

The formation of a stable G-quadruplex (GQ) can inhibit the increased telomerase activity that is common in most cancers. The global structure and the thermal stability of the GQs are usually evaluated by spectroscopic methods and thermal denaturation properties. However, most biochemical processes involving GQs might require local conformational changes at the guanine tetrad (G4) level. These local conformational changes of individual G4 layers during protein and drug interactions have not yet been explored in detail. In this study, we monitored the local conformations of individual G4 layers in GQs using 6-methylisoxanthopterine (6MI) chromophores, which are circular dichroism (CD)-active fluorescent base analogues of guanine, as local conformational probes. A synthetic, tetramolecular, parallel GQ with site-specifically positioned 6MI monomers or dimers was used as the experimental construct. Analytical ultracentrifugation studies and gel electrophoretic studies showed that properly positioned 6MI monomers and dimers could form stable GQs with CD-active fluorescent G4 layers. The local conformation of individual fluorescent G4 layers in the GQ structure was then tracked by monitoring the absorbance, fluorescence intensity, thermal melting, fluorescence quenching, and CD changes of the incorporated probes. Overall, these studies showed that site-specifically incorporated fluorescent base analogues could be used as probes to monitor the local conformational changes of individual G4 layers of a GQ structure. This method can be applied to explore the details of small molecule-GQ interaction at the level of the individual G4 layers, which may prove to be useful in designing drugs to treat GQ-related genetic disorders, cancer, and aging.

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A curated library of circular dichroism spectra of 23 G-quadruplexes of known structure was built and analyzed. The goal of this study was to use this reference library to develop an algorithm to derive quantitative estimates of the secondary structure content of quadruplexes from their experimental CD spectra. Principal component analysis and singular value decomposition were used to characterize the reference spectral library. CD spectra were successfully fit to obtain estimates of the amounts of base steps in anti-anti, syn-anti or anti-syn conformations, in diagonal or lateral loops or in other conformations. The results show that CD spectra of nucleic acids can be analyzed to obtain quantitative structural information about secondary structure content in an analogous way to methods used to analyze protein CD spectra.
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We demonstrated a strategy to reversibly extend and contract 3D DNA nanocages based on G-rich DNA strands as scaffolds in the presence of K⁺ or chelating agents. The contraction and extension of nanocage would be regulated by formation and deformation of G-quadruplex in the presence of K⁺ ions and chelating agents, respectively. Compared to single telomeric DNA strands, self-assembled 3D DNA nanocages integrated with three HTLs act as horseradish peroxidase mimicking DNAzymes for colorimetric detection and monitoring of cholesterol with high stability toward nuclease and blood serum degradations. This is the first example of facile construction of 3D DNA nanostructures with contractile, reversible, and catalytic features based on the assembly and disassembly of G-quadruplexes. This work offers a new platform for manipulation of nanoscale conformational changes and a step forward in obtaining stimuli-responsive 3D DNA nanomaterials with versatile reactivity and functionalities.
Article
Single-stranded guanine-rich DNA sequences can fold into four-stranded DNA structures called G-quadruplexes (G4s) that arise from the self-stacking of two or more guanine quartets. There has been considerable recent progress in the detection and mapping of G4 structures in the human genome and in biologically relevant contexts. These advancements, many of which align with predictions made previously in computational studies, provide important new insights into the functions of G4 structures in, for example, the regulation of transcription and genome stability, and uncover their potential relevance for cancer therapy.
Article
The structure and dynamic motions of bases in DNA duplexes and other constructs are important for understanding mechanisms of selectivity and recognition of DNA-binding proteins. The fluorescent guanine analogue, 6-methylisoxanthopterin 6-MI, is well suited to this purpose as it exhibits an unexpected three- to four-fold increase in relative quantum yield upon duplex formation when incorporated into the following sequences: ATFAA, AAFTA, or ATFTA (where F represents 6-MI). To better understand some of the factors leading to the 6-MI fluorescence increase upon duplex formation, we characterized the effect of local sequence and structural perturbations on 6-MI photophysics through temperature melts, quantum yield measurements, fluorescence quenching assays and fluorescence lifetime measurements. By examining 21 sequences we have determined that the duplex-enhanced fluorescence (DEF) depends on the composition of bases adjacent to 6-MI and the presence of adenines at locations n ± 2 from the probe. Investigation of duplex stability and local solvent accessibility measurements support a model in which the DEF arises from a constrained geometry of 6-MI in the duplex, which remains H-bonded to cytosine, stacked with adjacent bases and inaccessible to quenchers. Perturbation of DNA structure through the introduction of an unpaired base 3' to 6-MI or a mismatched basepair increases 6-MI dynamic motion leading to fluorescence quenching and a reduction in quantum yield. Molecular dynamics simulations suggest the enhanced fluorescence results from a greater degree of twist at the X-F step relative to the quenched duplexes examined. These results point to a model where adenine residues located at n ± 2 from 6-MI induce a structural geometry with greater twist in the duplex that hinders local motion reducing dynamic quenching and producing an increase in 6-MI fluorescence.
Chapter
G-quadruplexes are guanine-rich nucleic acids that fold by forming successive quartets of guanines (the G-tetrads), stabilized by intra-quartet hydrogen bonds, inter-quartet stacking, and cation coordination. This specific although highly polymorphic type of secondary structure deviates significantly from the classical B-DNA duplex. G-quadruplexes are detectable in human cells and are strongly suspected to be involved in a number of biological processes at the DNA and RNA levels. The vast structural polymorphism exhibited by G-quadruplexes, together with their putative biological relevance, makes them attractive therapeutic targets compared to canonical duplex DNA. This chapter focuses on the essential and specific coordination of alkali metal cations by G-quadruplex nucleic acids, and most notably on studies highlighting cation-dependent dissimilarities in their stability, structure, formation, and interconversion. Section 1 surveys G-quadruplex structures and their interactions with alkali metal ions while Section 2 presents analytical methods used to study G-quadruplexes. The influence of alkali cations on the stability, structure, and kinetics of formation of G-quadruplex structures of quadruplexes will be discussed in Sections 3 and 4. Section 5 focuses on the cation-induced interconversion of G-quadruplex structures. In Sections 3 to 5, we will particularly emphasize the comparisons between cations, most often K+ and Na+ because of their prevalence in the literature and in cells.
Article
The 3'-terminal extensions of eukaryotic chromosomes are unique examples of functional single-stranded DNA. Human telomeres are constructed of the repeated DNA sequence 5'-d(TTAGGG). Four-repeats of human telomeric DNA have been characterized by high-resolution techniques to be capable of forming at least five distinct monomeric conformations. The predominant solution topology is influenced by solution conditions and the presence of 3'- or 5'-flanking residues. This study describes the unfolding mechanisms for human telomeric quadruplexes formed by eight sequence variants that form three unique antiparallel topologies in K(+) solution. Thermal unfolding monitored by circular dichroism is analyzed by singular value decomposition to enumarate the number of significant spectral species required to model the unfolding process. Thermal denaturation of all quadruplexes studied is found to be best modeled by a four-state sequential mechanism with two populated intermediates. The thermal unfolding was also investigated in 50% (v/v) acetonitrile in which a parallel topology is favored. Under these dehydrating conditions, quadruplex thermal denaturation is best modeled by a three-state sequential unfolding mechanism with one populated intermediate. Dehydrated parallel quadruplexes demonstrate increased thermal stability. The spectral properties of the unfolding intermediate suggest that it is most likely a triple-helical structure.
Article
G-quadruplexes are four-stranded DNA structures that are over-represented in gene promoter regions and are viewed as emerging therapeutic targets in oncology, as transcriptional repression of oncogenes through stabilization of these structures could be a novel anticancer strategy. Many gene promoter G-quadruplexes have physicochemical properties and structural characteristics that might make them druggable, and their structural diversity suggests that a high degree of selectivity might be possible. Here, we describe the evidence for G-quadruplexes in gene promoters and discuss their potential as therapeutic targets, as well as progress in the development of strategies to harness this potential through intervention with small-molecule ligands.
Article
Telomeres, repetitive DNA sequences found at the ends of linear chromosomes, play a role in regulating cellular proliferation, and shorten with increasing age in proliferating human tissues. The rate of age-related shortening of telomeres is highest early in life and decreases with age. Shortened telomeres are thought to limit the proliferation of cells and are associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Although natural selection is widely assumed to operate against long telomeres because they entail increased cancer risk, the evidence for this is mixed. Instead, here it is proposed that telomere length is primarily limited by energetic constraints. Cell proliferation is energetically expensive, so shorter telomeres should lead to a thrifty phenotype. Shorter telomeres are proposed to restrain adaptive immunity as an energy saving mechanism. Such a limited immune system, however, might also result in chronic infections, inflammatory stress, premature aging, and death--a more "disposable soma." With an increased reproductive lifespan, the fitness costs of premature aging are higher and longer telomeres will be favored by selection. Telomeres exhibit a paternal effect whereby the offspring of older fathers have longer telomeres due to increased telomere lengths of sperm with age. This paternal effect is proposed to be an adaptive signal of the expected age of male reproduction in the environment offspring are born into. The offspring of lineages of older fathers will tend to have longer, and thereby less thrifty, telomeres, better preparing them for an environment with higher expected ages at reproduction.
Article
Thermodynamic and kinetic studies complement high-resolution structures of G-quadruplexes. Such studies are essential for a thorough understanding of the mechanisms that govern quadruplex folding and conformational changes in quadruplexes. This perspective article reviews representative thermodynamic and kinetic studies of the folding of human telomeric quadruplex structures. Published thermodynamic data vary widely and are inconsistent; possible reasons for these inconsistencies are discussed. The key issue of whether such folding reactions are a simple two-state process is examined. A tentative energy balance for the folding of telomeric quadruplexes in Na(+) and K(+) solution, and for the conformational transition between these forms is presented.
Article
The telomeric ends of eukaryotic chromosomes are composed of simple repeating sequences in which one DNA strand contains short tracts of guanine residues alternating with short tracts of A/T-rich sequences. The guanine-rich strand is always oriented in a 5'-3' direction towards the end of the chromosome and is extended to produce a 3' overhang of about two repeating units in species where the telomeric terminus is known. This overhang has been implicated in the formation of several unusual intra-and intermolecular DNA structures, although none of these structures has been characterized fully. We now report that oligonucleotides encoding Tetrahymena telomeres dimerize to form stable complexes in solution. This salt-dependent dimerization is mediated entirely by the 3'-terminal telomeric overhang (TT-GGGGTTGGGG) and produces complexes in which the N7 position of every guanine in the overhangs is chemically inaccessible. We therefore propose that telomeric DNA dimerizes by hydrogen bonding between two intramolecular hairpin loops, to form antiparallel quadruplexes containing cyclic guanine base tetrads. These novel hairpin dimers may be important in telomere association and recombination and could also provide a general mechanism for pairing two double helices in other recombinational processes.
Article
We have discovered that single-stranded DNA containing short guanine-rich motifs will self-associate at physiological salt concentrations to make four-stranded structures in which the strands run in parallel fashion. We believe these complexes are held together by guanines bonded to each other by Hoogsteen pairing. Such guanine-rich sequences occur in immunoglobulin switch regions, in gene promoters, and in chromosomal telomeres. We speculate that this self-recognition of guanine-rich motifs of DNA serves to bring together, and to zipper up in register, the four homologous chromatids during meiosis.
Article
The base analog 2-aminopurine (AP) strongly promotes A.T to G.C and G.C to A.T transitions in bacteria and bacteriophage. During DNA replication, the primary mutagenic event involves formation of a heteroduplex with an AP.C site at a much higher frequency than formation of the corresponding heteroduplex with an A.C site. It is not known if AP-induced mutagenesis correlates with differences in the thermodynamic properties of an AP.C versus an A.C site, or whether interactions involving DNA polymerases are controlling. To address this specific question, and more generally to characterize AP-containing duplexes, we have used a combination of spectroscopic and calorimetric techniques to determine the thermodynamic properties of six 11-mer duplexes. The sequences of these duplexes are identical except for the identity of the variable central base pair which can be either A.T, A.C, AP.T, AP.C, AP.A, or AP.G, and which we use to designate each duplex. Analyses and interpretation of the optically and calorimetrically derived thermal and thermodynamic data on these six duplexes reveal the relative stabilizing influence of the central base pairs to be A.T > AP.T > AP.C > AP.A > AP.G > A.C, with the AP.C-containing duplex being significantly more stable than the A.C-containing duplex. In the aggregate, our results suggest that during incorporation, base pair discrimination by DNA polymerases is influenced, in part, by differences in the thermodynamic stabilities of the newly formed base pairs.
Article
A new method for the size-distribution analysis of polymers by sedimentation velocity analytical ultracentrifugation is described. It exploits the ability of Lamm equation modeling to discriminate between the spreading of the sedimentation boundary arising from sample heterogeneity and from diffusion. Finite element solutions of the Lamm equation for a large number of discrete noninteracting species are combined with maximum entropy regularization to represent a continuous size-distribution. As in the program CONTIN, the parameter governing the regularization constraint is adjusted by variance analysis to a predefined confidence level. Estimates of the partial specific volume and the frictional ratio of the macromolecules are used to calculate the diffusion coefficients, resulting in relatively high-resolution sedimentation coefficient distributions c(s) or molar mass distributions c(M). It can be applied to interference optical data that exhibit systematic noise components, and it does not require solution or solvent plateaus to be established. More details on the size-distribution can be obtained than from van Holde-Weischet analysis. The sensitivity to the values of the regularization parameter and to the shape parameters is explored with the help of simulated sedimentation data of discrete and continuous model size distributions, and by applications to experimental data of continuous and discrete protein mixtures.
Article
The dissociation and assembly of quadruplex DNA structures (and a few quadruplex RNAs) have been characterized at several levels of rigor, ranging from gross descriptions of factors that govern each process, to semiquantitative comparisons of the relative abilities of these factors to induce stabilization or destabilization, to quantitative studies of binding energies (thermodynamics), transformational rates (kinetics), and analysis of their transition-state energies and mechanisms. This survey classifies these factors, describes the trends and focuses on their interdependencies. Quadruplex assembly is induced most efficiently by added K(+) and elevating the strand concentration; however, Na(+), NH(4)(+), Sr(2+), and Pb(2+) are also very effective stabilizers. Quadruplex dissociation is typically accomplished by thermal denaturation, "melting"; however, when the quadruplex and monovalent cation concentrations are low enough, or the temperature is sufficiently high, several divalent cations, e.g., Ca(2+), Co(2+), Mn(2+), Zn(2+), Ni(2+) and Mg(2+) can induce dissociation. Stabilization also depends on the type of structure adopted by the strand (or strands) in question. Variants include intramolecular, two- and four-stranded quadruplexes. Other important variables include strand sequence, the size of intervening loops and pH, especially when cytosines are present, base methylation, and the replacement of backbone phosphates with phosphorothioates. Competitive equilibria can also modulate the formation of quadruplex DNAs. For example, reactions leading to Watson-Crick (WC) duplex and hairpin DNAs, triplex DNAs, and even other types of quadruplexes can compete with quadruplex association reactions for strands. Others include nonprotein catalysts, small molecules such as aromatic dyes, metalloporphyrins, and carbohydrates (osmolytes). Other nucleic acid strands have been found to drive quadruplex formation. To help reinforce the implications of each piece of information, each functional conclusion drawn from each cited piece of thermodynamic or kinetic data has been summarized briefly in a standardized table entry.
Article
The telomere-telomerase hypothesis is the science of cellular aging (senescence) and cancer. The ends of chromosomes, telomeres, count the number of divisions a cell can undergo before entering permanent growth arrest. As divisions are being counted, events occur on the cellular and molecular level, which may either delay or hasten this arrest. As humans age, a particular concern is the accumulation of events that lead to the progression of cancer. Telomerase is a mechanism that most normal cells do not possess, but almost all cancer cells acquire, to overcome their mortality and extend their lifespan. This review aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the role of telomerase in cancer development, progression, diagnosis, and in the future, treatment. The ultimate goal of telomerase research is to use our understanding to develop anti-telomerase therapies, an almost universal tumor target.
Article
We describe algorithms for solving the Lamm equations for the reaction-diffusion-sedimentation process in analytical ultracentrifugation, and examine the potential and limitations for fitting experimental data. The theoretical limiting case of a small, uniformly distributed ligand rapidly reacting with a larger protein in a "constant bath" of the ligand is recapitulated, which predicts the reaction boundary to sediment with a single sedimentation and diffusion coefficient. As a consequence, it is possible to express the sedimentation profiles of reacting systems as c(s) distribution of noninteracting Lamm equation solutions, deconvoluting the effects of diffusion. For rapid reactions, the results are quantitatively consistent with the "constant bath" approximation, showing c(s) peaks at concentration-dependent positions. For slower reactions, the deconvolution of diffusion is still partially successful, with c(s) resolving peaks that reflect the populations of sedimenting species. The transition between c(s) peaks describing reaction boundaries of moderately strong interactions (K(D) approximately 10(-6) M) or resolving sedimenting species was found to occur in a narrow range of dissociation rate constant between 10(-3) and 10(-4) s(-1). The integration of the c(s) peaks can lead to isotherms of species populations or s-value of the reaction boundary, respectively, which can be used for the determination of the equilibrium binding constant.
Article
2-Aminopurine (Ap) modified human telomere sequences were used to monitor the specific complex formation of the G-quadruplex and 5,10,15,20-tetrakis(N-methyl-4-pyridyl)porphyrin (TMPyP4).