A Monte Carlo method for generating structures of short single‐stranded DNA sequences

Dorothy A. Erie, Kenneth Breslauer, Wilma Olson

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A Monte Carlo method has been developed for generating the conformations of short single‐stranded DNAs from arbitrary starting states. The chain conformers are constructed from energetically favorable arrangements of the constituent mononucleotides. Minimum energy states of individual dinucleotide monophosphate molecules are identified using a torsion angle minimizer. The glycosyl and acyclic backbone torsions of the dimers are allowed to vary, while the sugar rings are held fixed in one of the two preferred puckered forms. A total of 108 conformationally distinct states per dimer are considered in this first stage of minimization. The torsion angles within 5 kcal/mole of the global minimum in the resulting optimized states are then allowed to vary by ±10° in an effort to estimate the breadth of the different local minima. The energies of a total of 2187 (37) angle combinations are examined per local conformational minimum. Finally, the energies of all dinucleotide conformers are scaled so that the populations of differently puckered sugar rings in the theoretical sample match those found in nmr solution studies. This last step is necessitated by limitations in the theoretical methods to predict DNA sugar puckering accurately. The conformer populations of the individual acyclic torsion angles in the composite dimer ensembles are found to be in good agreement with the distributions of backbone conformations deduced from nmr coupling constants and the frequencies of glycosyl conformations in x‐ray crystal structures, suggesting that the low energy states are reasonable. The low energy dimer forms (consisting of 150–325 conformational states per dimer step) are next used as variables in a Monte Carlo algorithm, which generates the conformations of single‐stranded d(CXnG) chains, where X = A, T and n = 3, 4, 5. The oligonucleotides are built sequentially from the 5′ end of the chain using random numbers to select the conformations of overlapping dimer units. The simulations are very fast, involving a total of 106 conformations per chain sequence. The potential errors in the buildup procedure are minimized by taking advantage of known rotational interdependences in the sugar–phosphate backbone. The distributions of oligonucleotide conformations are examined in terms of the magnitudes, positions, and orientations of the end‐to‐end vectors of the chains. The differences in overall flexibility and extension of the oligomers are discussed in terms of the conformations of the constituent dinucleotide steps, while the general methodology is discussed and compared with other nucleic acid model building techniques. © 1993 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-105
Number of pages31
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1993

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomaterials
  • Organic Chemistry

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