DNA associations: Packing calculations in A-, B-, and Z-DNA structures

A. R. Srinivasan, Wilma K. Olson

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8 Scopus citations


A detailed theoretical study has been carried out to examine the modes of DNADNA interactions on the basis of hard-sphere contact criteria. Two helices of identical structure and length are oriented side-by-side and their relative positions are controlled by translations along and rotations about specific axes. Short atomic contacts between pairs of atoms in the structures are assessed and contact-free configurations are compiled. The computed contact-free arrangements of A, B, and Z double helices are found to be remarkably similar to the packing motifs observed in DNA crystals and stretched fibers. Equally interesting in the study are the broad ranges of sterically acceptable arrangements that preserve the overall packing morphology of neighboring duplexes: Among the most notable morphological features in the helical complexes are extended "super" major and minor grooves which might facilitate the wrapping and packaging of DNA chains in supramolecular assemblies. The hard-sphere computations, however, are insufficient for quantitative interpretation of the packing of DNA helices in the solid state. The results are, nevertheless, a useful starting point for energy based studies as well as relevant to the analysis of long-range interactions in DNA supercoils and cruciforms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-310
Number of pages32
JournalBiophysical chemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


  • A-, B-, Z-DNA
  • Crystal packing
  • DNA associations
  • Hard-sphere contacts


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