Determining Sequence-Dependent DNA Oligonucleotide Hybridization and Dehybridization Mechanisms Using Coarse-Grained Molecular Simulation, Markov State Models, and Infrared Spectroscopy

MS Jones and B Ashwood and A Tokmakoff and AL Ferguson, JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, 143, 17395-17411 (2021).

DOI: 10.1021/jacs.1c05219

A robust understanding of the sequence-dependent thermodynamics of DNA hybridization has enabled rapid advances in DNA nanotechnology. A fundamental understanding of the sequence-dependent kinetics and mechanisms of hybridization and dehybridization remains comparatively underdeveloped. In this work, we establish new understanding of the sequence-dependent hybridization/dehybridization kinetics and mechanism within a family of self-complementary pairs of 10-mer DNA oligomers by integrating coarse-grained molecular simulation, machine learning of the slow dynamical modes, data-driven inference of long-time kinetic models, and experimental temperature-jump infrared spectroscopy. For a repetitive ATATATATAT sequence, we resolve a rugged dynamical landscape comprising multiple metastable states, numerous competing hybridization/dehybridization pathways, and a spectrum of dynamical relaxations. Introduction of a G:C pair at the terminus (GATATATATC) or center (ATATGCATAT) of the sequence reduces the ruggedness of the dynamics landscape by eliminating a number of metastable states and reducing the number of competing dynamical pathways. Only by introducing a G:C pair midway between the terminus and the center to maximally disrupt the repetitive nature of the sequence (ATGATATCAT) do we recover a canonical "all-or-nothing" two-state model of hybridization/dehybridization with no intermediate metastable states. Our results establish new understanding of the dynamical richness of sequence-dependent kinetics and mechanisms of DNA hybridization/dehybridization by furnishing quantitative and predictive kinetic models of the dynamical transition network between metastable states, present a molecular basis with which to understand experimental temperature jump data, and furnish foundational design rules by which to rationally engineer the kinetics and pathways of DNA association and dissociation for DNA nanotechnology applications.

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