DNA Stability in the Gas Versus Solution Phases: A Systematic Study of Thirty-One Duplexes with Varying Length, Sequence, and Charge Level

Su Pan, Xuejun Sun, Jeehiun K. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


We report herein a systematic mass spectrometric study of a series of thirty-one non-self-complementary, matched, DNA duplexes ranging in size from 5- to 12-mers. The purpose of this work is threefold: (1) to establish the viability of using mass spectrometry as a tool for examining solution phase stabilities of DNA duplexes; (2) to systematically assess gas-phase stabilities of DNA duplexes; and (3) to compare gas and solution phase stabilities in an effort to understand how media affects DNA stability. These fundamental issues are of importance both on their own, and also for harnessing the potential of mass spectrometry for biological applications. We have found that ion abundances do not always track with solution phase stability; GC content must be taken into account. Two duplexes with the same Tm yet with differing GC content can yield different ion abundances. That is, if two duplexes have the exact same melting temperature, yet one has a higher GC content, the duplex with the higher GC content yields a higher ion abundance. It thus appears that not only is a GC base pair stronger than an AT base pair, but the relative strengths of each differ in the gas phase versus in solution, such that the electrospray process can differentiate between them. We also characterize the gas-phase stabilities of the duplexes, using collision-induced dissociation (CID) as a method to assess stability. We focus on two aspects of this CID experiment. One, we examine what factors appear to control whether the duplexes dissociate into single strands or covalently fragment; we are able to utilize a charge state normalization we coin "charge level" to compare our results with others' and establish generalities regarding dissociation versus fragmentation patterns. Two, we examine those duplexes that primarily dissociate and use CID to assess the gas-phase stabilities. We find that correlation of gas-phase to solution-phase stabilities is more likely to occur when duplexes of varying GC content are examined. Duplexes with the same GC content tend to have stabilities that do not parallel those in solution. We discuss these results in light of the different roles that hydrogen bonding and base stacking play in solution versus the gas phase. Ultimately, we apply what we learn to lend insight into the biological problem of how the carcinogenic, damaged nucleobase O6-methylguanine causes mutations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1383-1395
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Structural Biology
  • Spectroscopy


Dive into the research topics of 'DNA Stability in the Gas Versus Solution Phases: A Systematic Study of Thirty-One Duplexes with Varying Length, Sequence, and Charge Level'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this