The design of an agent to bend DNA

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Oct 29;93(22):12122-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.93.22.12122.


An artificial DNA bending agent has been designed to assess helix flexibility over regions as small as a protein binding site. Bending was obtained by linking a pair of 15-base-long triple helix forming oligonucleotides (TFOs) by an adjustable polymeric linker. By design, DNA bending was introduced into the double helix within a 10-bp spacer region positioned between the two sites of 15-base triple helix formation. The existence of this bend has been confirmed by circular permutation and phase-sensitive electrophoresis, and the directionality of the bend has been determined as a compression of the minor helix groove. The magnitude of the resulting duplex bend was found to be dependent on the length of the polymeric linker in a fashion consistent with a simple geometric model. Data suggested that a 50-70 degrees bend was achieved by binding of the TFO chimera with the shortest linker span (18 rotatable bonds). Equilibrium analysis showed that, relative to a chimera which did not bend the duplex, the stability of the triple helix possessing a 50-70 degrees bend was reduced by less than 1 kcal/mol of that of the unbent complex. Based upon this similarity, it is proposed that duplex DNA may be much more flexible with respect to minor groove compression than previously assumed. It is shown that this unusual flexibility is consistent with recent quantitation of protein-induced minor groove bending.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Chimera
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • DNA Polymerase I / metabolism
  • Drug Design*
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation / drug effects*


  • DNA
  • DNA Polymerase I