DNA basepair step deformability inferred from molecular dynamics simulations

Biophys J. 2003 Nov;85(5):2872-83. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(03)74710-9.


The sequence-dependent DNA deformability at the basepair step level was investigated using large-scale atomic resolution molecular dynamics simulation of two 18-bp DNA oligomers: d(GCCTATAAACGCCTATAA) and d(CTAGGTGGATGACTCATT). From an analysis of the structural fluctuations, the harmonic potential energy functions for all 10 unique steps with respect to the six step parameters have been evaluated. In the case of roll, three distinct groups of steps have been identified: the flexible pyrimidine-purine (YR) steps, intermediate purine-purine (RR), and stiff purine-pyrimidine (RY). The YR steps appear to be the most flexible in tilt and partially in twist. Increasing stiffness from YR through RR to RY was observed for rise, whereas shift and slide lack simple trends. A proposed measure of the relative importance of couplings identifies the slide-rise, twist-roll, and twist-slide couplings to play a major role. The force constants obtained are of similar magnitudes to those based on a crystallographic ensemble. However, the current data have a less complicated and less pronounced sequence dependence. A correlation analysis reveals concerted motions of neighboring steps and thus exposes limitations in the dinucleotide model. The comparison of DNA deformability from this and other studies with recent quantum-chemical stacking energy calculations suggests poor correlation between the stacking and flexibility.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Base Pairing*
  • Base Sequence
  • Computer Simulation
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • Elasticity
  • Energy Transfer
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Motion
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Nucleotides / chemistry*
  • Oligonucleotides / chemistry*
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Nucleotides
  • Oligonucleotides
  • DNA