The introduction of cationic 5-(ω-aminoalkyl)-2′-deoxypyrimidines into duplex DNA has been shown to induce DNA bending. In order to understand the energetic and hydration contributions for the incorporation of a cationic side chain in DNA a combination of spectroscopy, calorimetry and density techniques were used. Specifically, the temperature unfolding and isothermal formation was studied for a pair of duplexes with sequence d(CGTAGUCG-TGC)/d(GCACGACTACG), where U represents 2′-deoxyuridine ('control') or 5-(3-aminopropyl)-2′-deoxyuridine ('modified'). Continuous variation experiments confirmed 1:1 stoichiometries for each duplex and the circular dichroism spectra show that both duplexes adopted the B conformation. UV and differential scanning calorimetry melting, experiments reveal that each duplex unfolds in two-state transitions. In low salt buffer, the 'modified' duplex is more stable and unfolds with a lower endothermic heat and lower release of counterion and water. This electrostatic stabilization is entropy driven and disappears at higher salt concentrations. Complete thermodynamic profiles at 15°C show that the favorable formation of each duplex results from the compensation of a favorable exothermic heat with an unfavorable entropy contribution. However, the isothermal profiles yielded a differential enthalpy of 8.8 kcal/mol, which is 4.3 kcal/mol higher than the differential enthalpy observed in the unfolding profiles. This indicates that the presence of the aminopropyl chain induces an increase in base stacking interactions in the modified single strand and a decrease in base stacking interactions in the modified duplex. Furthermore, the formation of the 'control' duplex releases water while the 'modified' duplex takes up water. Relative to the control duplex, formation of the modified duplex at 15°C yielded a marginal differential ΔG° term, positive ΔΔHITC-Δ(TΔS) compensation, negative ΔΔV and a net release of counterions. The opposite signs of the differential enthalpy-entropy compensation and differential volume change terms show a net uptake of structural water around polar and non-polar groups. This indicates that incorporation of the aminopropyl chain induces a higher exposure of aromatic bases to the solvent, which may be consistent with a small and local bend in the 'modified' duplex.
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