The abasic site in DNA may arise spontaneously, as a result of nucleotide base damage, or as an intermediate in glycosylase-mediated DNA- repair pathways. It is the most common damage found in DNA. We have examined the consequences of this lesion and its sequence context on DNA duplex structure, as well as the thermal and thermodynamic stability of the duplex, including the energetic origins of that stability. To this end, we incorporated a tetrahydrofuran abasic site analogue into a family of 13-mer DNA duplexes, wherein the base opposite the lesion (A, C, G, or T) and the base pairs neighboring the lesion (C·G or G·C) were systematically varied and characterized by a combination of spectroscopic and calorimetric techniques. The resulting data allowed us to reach the following conclusions: (i) the presence of the lesion in all sequence contexts studied does not alter the global B-form conformation characteristic of the parent undamaged duplex; (ii) the presence of the lesion induces a significant enthalpic destabilization of the duplex, with the magnitude of this effect being dependent on the sequence context; (iii) the thermodynamic impact of the lesion is dominated by the identity of the neighboring base pairs, with the cross strand partner base exerting only a secondary thermodynamic effect on duplex properties. In the aggregate, our data reveal that even in the absence of lesion-induced alterations in global structure, the abasic lesion can significantly alter the thermodynamic properties of the host duplex, with the magnitude of this impact being strongly dependent on sequence context.
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