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Silver (I) as DNA glue: Ag+-mediated guanine pairing revealed by removing Watson-Crick constraints

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Metal ion interactions with DNA have far-reaching implications in biochemistry and DNA nanotechnology. Ag(+) is uniquely interesting because it binds exclusively to the bases rather than the backbone of DNA, without the toxicity of Hg(2+). In contrast to prior studies of Ag(+) incorporation into double-stranded DNA, we remove the constraints of Watson-Crick pairing by focusing on homo-base DNA oligomers of the canonical bases. High resolution electro-spray ionization mass spectrometry reveals an unanticipated Ag(+)-mediated pairing of guanine homo-base strands, with higher stability than canonical guanine-cytosine pairing. By exploring unrestricted binding geometries, quantum chemical calculations find that Ag(+) bridges between non-canonical sites on guanine bases. Circular dichroism spectroscopy shows that the Ag(+)-mediated structuring of guanine homobase strands persists to at least 90 °C under conditions for which canonical guanine-cytosine duplexes melt below 20 °C. These findings are promising for DNA nanotechnology and metal-ion based biomedical science.

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