Quantum-mechanical analysis of the energetic contributions to π stacking in nucleic acids versus rise, twist, and slide.

TitleQuantum-mechanical analysis of the energetic contributions to π stacking in nucleic acids versus rise, twist, and slide.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsParker, TM, Hohenstein, EG, Parrish, RM, Hud, NV, C Sherrill, D
JournalJ Am Chem Soc
Date Published2013 Jan 30
KeywordsNucleic Acids, Quantum Theory, Thermodynamics

Symmetry-adapted perturbation theory (SAPT) is applied to pairs of hydrogen-bonded nucleobases to obtain the energetic components of base stacking (electrostatic, exchange-repulsion, induction/polarization, and London dispersion interactions) and how they vary as a function of the helical parameters Rise, Twist, and Slide. Computed average values of Rise and Twist agree well with experimental data for B-form DNA from the Nucleic Acids Database, even though the model computations omitted the backbone atoms (suggesting that the backbone in B-form DNA is compatible with having the bases adopt their ideal stacking geometries). London dispersion forces are the most important attractive component in base stacking, followed by electrostatic interactions. At values of Rise typical of those in DNA (3.36 Å), the electrostatic contribution is nearly always attractive, providing further evidence for the importance of charge-penetration effects in π-π interactions (a term neglected in classical force fields). Comparison of the computed stacking energies with those from model complexes made of the "parent" nucleobases purine and 2-pyrimidone indicates that chemical substituents in DNA and RNA account for 20-40% of the base-stacking energy. A lack of correspondence between the SAPT results and experiment for Slide in RNA base-pair steps suggests that the backbone plays a larger role in determining stacking geometries in RNA than in B-form DNA. In comparisons of base-pair steps with thymine versus uracil, the thymine methyl group tends to enhance the strength of the stacking interaction through a combination of dispersion and electrosatic interactions.

Alternate JournalJ. Am. Chem. Soc.
PubMed ID23265256