2018 journal article
E-motif formed by extrahelical cytosine bases in DNA homoduplexes of trinucleotide and hexanucleotide repeats
NUCLEIC ACIDS RESEARCH, 46(2), 942–955.
Atypical DNA secondary structures play an important role in expandable trinucleotide repeat (TR) and hexanucleotide repeat (HR) diseases. The cytosine mismatches in C-rich homoduplexes and hairpin stems are weakly bonded; experiments show that for certain sequences these may flip out of the helix core, forming an unusual structure termed an 'e-motif'. We have performed molecular dynamics simulations of C-rich TR and HR DNA homoduplexes in order to characterize the conformations, stability and dynamics of formation of the e-motif, where the mismatched cytosines symmetrically flip out in the minor groove, pointing their base moieties towards the 5'-direction in each strand. TRs have two non-equivalent reading frames, (GCC)n and (CCG)n; while HRs have three: (CCCGGC)n, (CGGCCC)n, (CCCCGG)n. We define three types of pseudo basepair steps related to the mismatches and show that the e-motif is only stable in (GCC)n and (CCCGGC)n homoduplexes due to the favorable stacking of pseudo GpC steps (whose nature depends on whether TRs or HRs are involved) and the formation of hydrogen bonds between the mismatched cytosine at position i and the cytosine (TRs) or guanine (HRs) at position i - 2 along the same strand. We also characterize the extended e-motif, where all mismatched cytosines are extruded, their extra-helical stacking additionally stabilizing the homoduplexes.