Nucleic acid crystallography: A view from the nucleic acid database

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What are the future directions of the field of nucleic acid crystallography? Although there have been many duplex structures determined, the sample is still relatively small. This is especially true if one wants to derive enough information about the relationships between sequence and structure. Indeed, there are data for all the possible 10 dimer steps, but for some steps it is very limited. If the structural code resides in trimers or tetrad steps then there is simply not enough data to do meaningful statistical analyses. So the first direction that needs to be explored is the determination of more structures with more varied sequences. The other noticeable thing about the data is the shortness of the strands. While it is probably true that attempts to crystallize very long sequences will not meet with success, the idea of crystallizing sequences engineered to fit together via sticky ends such as has been done for the CAP-DNA complex (Schultz et al., 1990) should give data about the behavior of much longer stretches of DNA. The question of the effects of environment on the structure of DNA continues to be a very important one to address since DNA is rarely alone. The preliminary data we have analysed from the current sample shows that the conformation of some steps are very sensitive to packing type. Numerous studies of the hydration around DNA shows that there is a real synergy between the hydration structure and the base conformation. More data will allow further quantitation of these observations. RNA structure is the next very exciting frontier. The emerging structures of duplexes with internal loops, the two hammerhead ribozyme structures and the group I intron ribozyme have given us a glimpse of the complexity and elegance of this class of molecules. With the technology now in place to allow the determination of the structures of these molecules, the expectation is that now we will see a large increase in the number of these structures in the NDB.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-288
Number of pages34
JournalProgress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Molecular Biology


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