Populated intermediates in the thermal unfolding of the human telomeric quadruplex

Robert D. Gray, Robert Buscaglia, Jonathan B. Chaires

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100 Scopus citations


Thermal denaturation profiles of several model oligonucleotides of the human telomere DNA sequence including d[A(GGGTTA)3GGG] (Tel22) were determined using circular dichroism (CD), fluorescence of adenine → 2-aminopurine analogs, and fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) to monitor the unfolding process at specific locations within the quadruplex. The resulting optical spectra vs temperature data matrices were analyzed by singular value decomposition (SVD) to ascertain the minimum number of species required to reproduce the unfolding spectral profiles. Global nonlinear least-squares fitting of the SVD amplitude vectors was used to estimate thermodynamic parameters and optical spectra of all species for a series of unfolding mechanisms that included one-, two-, and three-step sequential pathways F ⇌ In ⇌ U, n = 0, 1, or 2) as well as two mechanisms with spectroscopically distinct starting structures (F1 and F 2). The CD and FRET data for Tel22 unfolding between 4 and 94 °C in 25 mM KCl were best described by a sequential unfolding model with two intermediates, while the 2-aminopurine analogs required one intermediate. The higher melting intermediate I2 had a transition midpoint temperature (Tm) of 61 °C and a CD spectrum with a maximum and minimum at ∼265 and ∼245 nm, respectively. The fluorescence emission spectra of the 2-aminopurine and FRET derivatives suggest greater solvent exposure of the 5′-AGGGTTA- segment in the intermediate compared to the folded state. The spectroscopic properties of the 61 °C intermediate suggest that it may be a triple helical structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16834-16844
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number40
StatePublished - Oct 10 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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