Groove-backbone interaction in B-DNA. Implication for DNA condensation and recombination

J Mol Biol. 1991 Oct 5;221(3):919-40. doi: 10.1016/0022-2836(91)80184-v.


DNA self-fitting is revealed by the study of intermolecular contacts found in the crystal packing of a dodecamer where the helices are locked together by a reciprocal groove-backbone interaction and form a crossed structure. It is proposed that it could be a model for DNA-DNA interaction in several biological processes such as the node of supercoiled DNA and synapsis in recombination. The main topological and symmetrical features of this crossed structure are described and the symmetry-homology relationships are analyzed in the more general case of B-DNA interacting helices. Model-building of Holliday junctions with minimal change from the starting crystal coordinates of the crossed structure leads to at least three different solutions. These various models are compared from the point of view of their symmetry and topology, in the light of their branch migration and resolution properties. In addition, a model for a self-favored reciprocal unwinding mechanism based on the experimentally observed structural alterations, such as the packing-induced opening of G.C base-pairs is proposed. In this model, the phosphate groups of the invading backbone trigger the opening of the base-pairs of the other helix, by pulling cytosine or adenine bases out of the major groove after binding to their amino group.

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Chromatin / chemistry
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Recombination, Genetic*
  • Solvents
  • X-Ray Diffraction


  • Chromatin
  • Solvents
  • DNA