Insight into G-DNA Structural Polymorphism and Folding from Sequence and Loop Connectivity through Free Energy Analysis
The lengths of G-tracts and their connecting loop sequences determine G-quadruplex folding and stability. Complete understanding of the sequence structure relationships remains elusive. Here, single-loop G-quadruplexes were investigated using explicit solvent molecular dynamics (MD) simulations to characterize the effect of loop length, loop sequence, and G-tract length on the folding topologies and stability of G-quadruplexes. Eight loop types, including different variants of lateral, diagonal, and propeller loops, and six different loop sequences [d0 (i.e., no intervening residues in the loop), dT, dT(2), dT(3), dTTA, and dT(4)] were considered through MD simulation and free energy analysis. In most cases the free energetic estimates agree well with the experimental observations. The work also provides new insight into G-quadruplex folding and stability. This includes reporting the observed instability of the left propeller loop, which extends the rules for G-quadruplex folding. We also suggest a plausible explanation why human telomere sequences predominantly form hybrid-I and hybrid-II type structures in K(+) solution. Overall, our calculation results indicate that short loops generally are less stable than longer loops, and we hypothesize that the extreme stability of sequences with very short loops could possibly derive from the formation of parallel multimers. The results suggest that free energy differences, estimated from MD and free energy analysis with current force fields and simulation protocols, are able to complement experiment and to help dissect and explain loop sequence, loop length, and G-tract length and orientation influences on G-quadruplex structure.