On the role of the cis Hoogsteen:sugar-edge family of base pairs in platforms and triplets-quantum chemical insights into RNA structural biology

J Phys Chem B. 2010 Mar 11;114(9):3307-20. doi: 10.1021/jp910226e.


Base pairs belonging to the cis Hoogsteen:sugar-edge (H:S) family play important structural roles in folded RNA molecules. Several of these are present in internal loops, where they are involved in interactions leading to planar dinucleotide platforms which stabilize higher order structures such as base triplets and quartets. We report results of analysis of 30 representative examples spanning 16 possible base pair combinations, with several of them showing multimodality of base pairing geometry. The geometries of 23 of these base pairs were modeled directly from coordinates extracted from RNA crystal structures. The other seven were predicted structures which were modeled on the basis of observed isosteric analogues. After appropriate satisfaction of residual valencies, these structures were relaxed using the B3LYP/6-31G(d,p) method and interaction energies were derived at the RIMP2/aug-cc-pVDZ level of theory. The geometries for each of the studied base pairs have been characterized in terms of the number and nature of H-bonds, rmsd values observed on optimization, base pair geometrical parameters, and sugar pucker analysis. In addition to its evaluation, the nature of intermolecular interaction in these complexes was also analyzed using Morokuma decomposition. The gas phase interaction energies range between -5.2 and -20.6 kcal/mol and, in contrast to the H:S trans base pairs, show enhanced relative importance of the electron correlation component, indicative of the greater role of dispersion energy in stabilization of these base pairs. The rich variety of hydrogen bonding pattern, involving the flexible sugar edge, appears to hold the key to several features of structural motifs, such as planarity and propensity to participate in triplets, observed in this family of base pairs. This work explores these aspects by integrating database analysis, and detailed base pairing geometry analysis at the atomistic level, with ab initio computation of interaction energies. The study, involving alternative classification of base pairs and triplets, provides insights into intrinsic properties of these base pairs and their possible structural and functional roles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Pairing
  • Hydrogen Bonding
  • Isomerism
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Quantum Theory
  • RNA / chemistry*


  • RNA