We have used 2D NMR spectroscopy to study the sugar conformations of oligonucleotides containing a conformationally restricted nucleotide (LNA) with a 2'-O, 4'-C-methylene bridge. We have investigated a modified 9-mer single stranded oligonucleotide as well as three 9- and 10-mer modified oligonucleotides hybridized to unmodified DNA. The single-stranded LNA contained three modifications whereas the duplexes contained one, three and four modifications, respectively. The LNA:DNA duplexes have normal Watson-Crick base-pairing with all the nucleotides in anti-conformation. By use of selective DQF-COSY spectra we determined the ratio between the N-type (C3'-endo) and S-type (C2'-endo) sugar conformations of the nucleotides. In contrast to the corresponding single-stranded DNA (ssDNA), we found that the sugar conformations of the single-stranded LNA oligonucleotide (ssLNA) cannot be described by a major S-type conformer of all the nucleotides. The nucleotides flanking an LNA nucleotide have sugar conformations with a significant population of the N-type conformer. Similarly, the sugar conformations of the nucleotides in the LNA:DNA duplexes flanking a modification were also shown to have significant contributions from the N-type conformation. In all cases, the sugar conformations of the nucleotides in the complementary DNA strand in the duplex remain in the S-type conformation. We found that the locked conformation of the LNA nucleotides both in ssLNA and in the duplexes organize the phosphate backbone in such a way as to introduce higher population of the N-type conformation. These conformational changes are associated with an improved stacking of the nucleobases. Based on the results reported herein, we propose that the exceptional stability of the LNA modified duplexes is caused by a quenching of concerted local backbone motions (preorganization) by the LNA nucleotides in ssLNA so as to decrease the entropy loss on duplex formation combined with a more efficient stacking of the nucleobases.
Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.