Noncanonical Hydrogen Bonding in Nucleic Acids. Benchmark Evaluation of Key Base-Phosphate Interactions in Folded RNA Molecules Using Quantum-Chemical Calculations and Molecular Dynamics Simulations
RNA molecules are stabilized by a wide range of non canonical interactions that are not present in DNA. Among them, the recently classified base phosphate (BPh) interactions belong to the most important ones. Twelve percent of nucleotides in the ribosomal crystal structures are involved in BPh interactions. BPh interactions are highly conserved and provide major constraints on RNA sequence evolution. Here we provide assessment of the energetics of BPh interactions using MP2 computations extrapolated to the complete basis set of atomic orbitals and corrected for higher-order electron correlation effects. The reference computations are compared with DFT-D and DFT-D3 approaches, the SAPT method, and the molecular mechanics force field. The computations, besides providing the basic benchmark for the BPh interactions, allow some refinements of the original classification, including identification of some potential doubly bonded BPh patterns. The reference computations are followed by analysis of some larger RNA fragments that consider the context of the BPh interactions. The computations demonstrate the complexity of interaction patterns utilizing the BPh interactions in real RNA structures. The BPh interactions are often involved in intricate interaction networks. We studied BPh interactions of protonated adenine that can contribute to catalysis of hairpin ribozyme, the key BPh interaction in the S-turn motif of the sarcin ricin loop, which may predetermine the S-turn topology and complex BPh patterns-from the glmS riboswitch. Finally, the structural stability of BPh interactions in explicit solvent molecular dynamics simulations is assessed. The simulations well preserve key BPh interactions and allow dissection of structurally/functionally important water-meditated BPh bridges, which could not be considered in earlier bioinformatics classification of BPh interactions.