Sulfur-substitution-induced base flipping in the DNA duplex

Zhaoxi Sun, Xiaohui Wang, John Z.H. Zhang, Qiaole He

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Base flipping is widely observed in a number of important biological processes. The genetic codes deposited inside the DNA duplex become accessible to external agents upon base flipping. The sulfur substitution of guanine leads to thioguanine, which alters the thermodynamic stability of the GC base pairs and the GT mismatches. Experimental studies conclude that the sulfur substitution decreases the lifetime of the GC base pair. In this work, under three AMBER force fields for nucleotide systems, we firstly performed equilibrium and nonequilibrium free energy simulations to investigate the variation of the thermodynamic profiles in base flipping upon sulfur substitution. It is found that the bsc0 modification, the bsc1 modification and the OL15 modification of AMBER force fields are able to qualitatively describe the sulfur-substitution dependent behavior of the thermodynamics. However, only the two last-generation AMBER force fields are able to provide quantitatively correct predictions. The second computational study on the sulfur substitutions focused on the relative stability of the S6G-C base pair and the S6G-T mismatch. Two conflicting experimental observations were reported by the same authors. One suggested that the S6G-C base pair was more stable, while the other concludes that the S6G-T mismatch was more stable. We answered this question by constructing the free energy profiles along the base flipping pathway computationally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14923-14940
Number of pages18
JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics
Issue number27
StatePublished - 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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