Structural dynamics of possible late-stage intermediates in folding of quadruplex DNA studied by molecular simulations
Explicit solvent molecular dynamics simulations have been used to complement preceding experimental and computational studies of folding of guanine quadruplexes (G-DNA). We initiate early stages of unfolding of several G-DNAs by simulating them under no-salt conditions and then try to fold them back using standard excess salt simulations. There is a significant difference between G-DNAs with all-anti parallel stranded stems and those with stems containing mixtures of syn and anti guanosines. The most natural rearrangement for all-anti stems is a vertical mutual slippage of the strands. This leads to stems with reduced numbers of tetrads during unfolding and a reduction of strand slippage during refolding. The presence of syn nucleotides prevents mutual strand slippage; therefore, the antiparallel and hybrid quadruplexes initiate unfolding via separation of the individual strands. The simulations confirm the capability of G-DNA molecules to adopt numerous stable locally and globally misfolded structures. The key point for a proper individual folding attempt appears to be correct prior distribution of syn and anti nucleotides in all four G-strands. The results suggest that at the level of individual molecules, G-DNA folding is an extremely multi-pathway process that is slowed by numerous misfolding arrangements stabilized on highly variable timescales.