Nucleic acid model building: The multiple backbone solutions associated with a given base morphology

A. R. Srinivasan, Wilma K. Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


A constrained model building procedure is used to generate nucleic acid structures of the familiar A-, B-, and Z-DNA duplexes. Attention is focused upon the multiple structural solutions associated with the arrangements of nucleic acid base pairs rather than the optimum sugar-phosphate structure. The glycosyl (χ) and sugar torsions (both the ring puckering and the exocyclic C5’-C4’ (ψ) torsion) are treated as independent variables and the resulting 03’ ? ? - 05’ distances are used as closure determinants. When such distances conform to the known geometry of phosphate chemical bonding, an intervening phosphorus atom with correct C-O-P valence angles can be located. Four sequential torsion angles- Ф’,ω’, ω and Ф –about the C3’-03’-P-05’-C5’ bonds are then obtained as dependent variables. The resulting structures are categorized in terms of conformation, ranked in potential energy, and analyzed for torsional correlations. The numerical results are quite interesting with implications regarding nucleic acid models constructed to fit less than ideal experimental data. The multiple solutions to the problem are useful for comprehending the conformational complexities of thelocal sugar-phosphate backbone and for understanding the transitions between different helical forms. According to these studies, unique characterization of a nucleic acid duplex involves more than the determination of its base pair morphology, its sugar puckering preferences, or its groove binding features.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)895-938
Number of pages44
JournalJournal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1987

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology

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