Tuesday, July 23, 2013

1307.5468 (Jeseong Yoon et al.)

Urea-induced denaturation of PreQ1-riboswitch    [PDF]

Jeseong Yoon, D. Thirumalai, Changbong Hyeon
Urea, a polar molecule with a large dipole moment, not only destabilizes the folded RNA structures, but can also enhance the folding rates of large ribozymes. Unlike the mechanism of urea-induced unfolding of proteins, which is well understood, the action of urea on RNA has barely been explored. We performed extensive all atom molecular dynamics (MD) simulations to determine the molecular underpinnings of urea-induced RNA denaturation. Urea displays its denaturing power in both secondary and tertiary motifs of the riboswitch (RS) structure. Our simulations reveal that the denaturation of RNA structures is mainly driven by the hydrogen bonds and stacking interactions of urea with the bases. Through detailed studies of the simulation trajectories, we found that geminate pairs between urea and bases due to hydrogen bonds and stacks persist only ~ (0.1-1) ns, which suggests that urea-base interaction is highly dynamic. Most importantly, the early stage of base pair disruption is triggered by penetration of water molecules into the hydrophobic domain between the RNA bases. The infiltration of water into the narrow space between base pairs is critical in increasing the accessibility of urea to transiently disrupted bases, thus allowing urea to displace inter base hydrogen bonds. This mechanism, water-induced disruption of base-pairs resulting in the formation of a "wet" destabilized RNA followed by solvation by urea, is the exact opposite of the two-stage denaturation of proteins by urea. In the latter case, initial urea penetration creates a dry-globule, which is subsequently solvated by water penetration leading to global protein unfolding. Our work shows that the ability to interact with both water and polar, non-polar components of nucleotides makes urea a powerful chemical denaturant for nucleic acids.
View original: http://arxiv.org/abs/1307.5468

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