Intramolecular four-way junctions are structures present during homologous recombination, repair of double stranded DNA breaks, and integron recombination. Because of the wide range of biological processes four-way junctions are involved in, understanding how and under what conditions these structures form is critical. In this work, we used a combination of spectroscopic and calorimetric techniques to present a complete thermodynamic description of the unfolding of a DNA four-way junction (FWJ) and its appropriate control stem-loop motifs (Dumbbell, GAAATT-Hp, CTATC-Hp, GTGC-Hp, and GCGC-Hp). The overall results show that the four-way junction increases the cooperative unfolding of its stems, although the reason for this is unclear, as the arms do not unfold as coaxial stacks, and thus its melting behavior cannot be accurately described by its control molecules. This is in contrast to what has been seen for two- and three-way junctions. In addition, the lack of base stacking and the δHvH/δHcal ratio seen at low salt indicate the four-way junction exists as a mixture of conformations, one of which is most likely the open-X structure which has unpaired bases at the junction. This was confirmed by single value decomposition of CD and UV spectra. This indicates that at low salt there is a third spectroscopically distinct species, while at higher salt there are only two species, folded and unfolded. Based on the enthalpy, δnion, and δnW, the dominant folded structure at high salt is most likely the antiparallel stacked-X structure.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry