The propensity of oligonucleotide strands to form stable duplexes with complementary sequences is fundamental to a variety of biological and biotechnological processes as various as microRNA signalling, microarray hybridization and PCR. Yet our understanding of oligonucleotide hybridization, in particular in presence of surfaces, is rather limited. Here we use oligonucleotide microarrays made in-house by optically controlled DNA synthesis to produce probe sets comprising all possible single base mismatches and base bulges for each of 20 sequence motifs under study.
We observe that mismatch discrimination is mostly determined by the defect position (relative to the duplex ends) as well as by the sequence context. We investigate the thermodynamics of the oligonucleotide duplexes on the basis of double-ended molecular zipper. Theoretical predictions of defect positional influence as well as long range sequence influence agree well with the experimental results.
Molecular zipping at thermodynamic equilibrium explains the binding affinity of mismatched DNA duplexes on microarrays well. The position dependent nearest neighbor model (PDNN) can be inferred from it. Quantitative understanding of microarray experiments from first principles is in reach.
Chemical agents that cleave HIV genome can be potentially used for anti-HIV therapy. In this report, the cleavage of the upper stem-loop region of HIV-1 TAR RNA was studied in a variety of buffers containing organic catalysts. trans-(±)-Cyclohexane-1,2-diamine was found to cleave the RNA with the highest activity (31%, 37°C, 18 h). Cleavage of the RNA in trans-(±)-cyclohexane-1,2-diamine buffer was also studied when the RNA was hybridized with complementary DNAs. A pyrene-modified C3 spacer was incorporated to the DNA strand to facilitate the formation of a RNA bulge loop in the RNA/DNA duplex. In contrast, unmodified DNAs cannot efficiently generate RNA bulge loops, regardless of the DNA sequences. The results showed that the pyrene-stablized RNA bulge loops were efficiently and site-specifically cleaved by trans-(±)-cyclohexane-1,2-diamine.
The double helix is known to form as a result of hybridization
of complementary nucleic acid strands in aqueous solution. In the
helix the negatively charged phosphate groups of each nucleic acid strand
are distributed helically on the outside of the duplex and are available
for interaction with cationic groups. Cation-coated glass surfaces
are now widely used in biotechnology, especially for covalent attachment
of cDNAs and oligonucleotides as surface-bound probes on microarrays.
These cationic surfaces can bind the nucleic acid backbone electrostatically
through the phosphate moiety. Here we describe a simple method to
fabricate DNA microarrays based upon adsorptive rather than covalent attachment
of oligonucleotides to a positively charged surface. We show that
such adsorbed oligonucleotide probes form a densely packed monolayer, which
retains capacity for base pair-specific hybridization with a solution
state DNA target strand to form the duplex. However, both strand
dissociation kinetics and the rate of DNase digestion suggest, on symmetry
grounds, that the target DNA binds to such adsorbed oligonucleotides
to form a highly asymmetrical and unwound duplex. Thus, it is suggested
that, at least on a charged surface, a non-helical DNA duplex can
be the preferred structural isomer under standard biochemical conditions.
The pteridine nucleoside analog 3-methyl isoxanthopterin (3-MI) is highly fluorescent, with a quantum yield of 0.88, and it can be synthesized as a phosphoramidite and incorporated into oligonucleotides through a deoxyribose linkage. Within an oligonucleotide, 3-MI is intimately associated with native bases and its fluorescence is variably quenched in a sequence-dependent manner. Bend ing, annealing, binding, digestion or cleavage of fluorophore-containing oligonucleotides can be detected by monitoring changes in fluorescence properties. We developed a single step method for detecting annealing of complementary DNA sequences using 3-MI-containing oligonucleotides as hybridization probes. One of the complementary strands contains the fluorophore as an insertion and when annealing occurs, the fluorophore bulges out from the double strand, resulting in increased fluorescence intensity. We have examined the sequence dependency, optimal strand length and impact of multiple fluorophores per strand in terms of brightness and impact on the annealing process. We describe the application of this technique to the detection of positive PCR products using an HIV-1 detection system. This sequence-dependent hybridization technique can result in fluorescence intensity increases of up to 27-fold. Fluorescence intensity increases are only seen upon specific binding to bulge-generating complements, removing issues of high background from non-specific binding.
Cleavage of phosphodiester bonds by small ribonuclease mimics within different bulge-loops of RNA was investigated. Bulge-loops of different size (1–7 nt) and sequence composition were formed in a 3′ terminal fragment of influenza virus M2 RNA (96 nt) by hybridization of complementary oligodeoxynucleotides. Small bulges (up to 4 nt) were readily formed upon oligonucleotide hybridization, whereas hybridization of the RNA to the oligonucleotides designed to produce larger bulges resulted in formation of several alternative structures. A synthetic ribonuclease mimic displaying Pyr–Pu cleavage specificity cleaved CpA motifs located within bulges faster than similar motifs within the rest of the RNA. In the presence of 10 mM MgCl2, 75% of the cleavage products resulted from the attack of this motif. Thus, selective RNA cleavage at a single target phosphodiester bond was achieved by using bulge forming oligonucleotides and a small ribonuclease A mimic.
We have developed DNA microarrays containing stem–loop DNA probes with short single-stranded overhangs immobilized on a Packard HydroGel chip, a 3-dimensional porous gel substrate. Microarrays were fabricated by immobilizing self-complementary single-stranded oligonucleotides, which adopt a partially duplex structure upon denaturing and re-annealing. Hybridization of single-stranded DNA targets to such arrays is enhanced by contiguous stacking interactions with stem–loop probes and is highly sequence specific. Subsequent enzymatic ligation of the targets to the probes followed by stringent washing further enhances the mismatched base discrimination. We demonstrate here that these microarrays provide excellent specificity with signal-to-background ratios of from 10- to 300-fold. In a comparative study, we demonstrated that HydroGel arrays display 10–30 times higher hybridization signals than some solid surface DNA microarrays. Using Sanger sequencing reactions, we have also developed a method for preparing nested 3′-deletion sets from a target and evaluated the use of stem–loop DNA arrays for detecting p53 mutations in the deletion set. The stem–loop DNA array format is simple, robust and flexible in design, thus it is potentially useful in various DNA diagnostic tests.
The NMR structure analysis is described for two DNA molecules of identical stem sequences with a five base loop containing a pyrimidine, thymin or uracil, in between purines. These five unpaired nucleotides are bulged out and are known to induce a kink in the duplex structure. The dAATAA bulge DNA is kinked between the third and the fourth nucleotide. This contrasts with the previously studied dAAAAA bulge DNA where we found a kink between the fourth and fifth nucleotide. The total kinking angle is ∼104° for the dAATAA bulge. The findings were supported by electrophoretic data and fluorescence resonance energy transfer measurements of a similar DNA molecule end-labeled by suitable fluorescent dyes. For the dAAUAA bulge the NMR data result in a similar structure as reported for the dAATAA bulge with a kinking angle of ∼87°. The results are discussed in comparison with a rAAUAA RNA bulge found in a group I intron. Generally, the sequence-dependent structure of bulges is important to understand the role of DNA bulges in protein recognition.
Hepadnaviruses replicate through reverse transcription of an RNA pregenome, resulting in a relaxed circular DNA genome. The first 3 or 4 nucleotides (nt) of minus-strand DNA are synthesized by the use of a bulge in a stem-loop structure near the 5′ end of the pregenome as a template. This primer is then transferred to a complementary UUCA motif, termed an acceptor, within DR1* near the 3′ end of the viral pregenome via 4-nt homology, and it resumes minus-strand DNA synthesis: this process is termed minus-strand transfer or primer translocation. Aside from the sequence identity of the donor and acceptor, little is known about the sequence elements contributing to minus-strand transfer. Here we report a novel cis-acting element, termed the β5 region (28 nt in length), located 20 nt upstream of DR1*, that facilitates minus-strand DNA synthesis. The deletion or inversion of the sequence including the β5 region diminished minus-strand DNA synthesis initiated at DR1*. Furthermore, the insertion of the β5 region into its own position in a mutant in which the sequences including the β5 region were replaced restored minus-strand DNA synthesis at DR1*. We speculate that the β5 region facilitates minus-strand transfer, possibly by bringing the acceptor site in proximity to the donor site via base pairing or by interacting with protein factors involved in this process.
Transactivation of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) gene expression requires binding of the viral Tat protein to a RNA hairpin-loop structure (TAR) which contains a two or three-nucleotide bulge. Tat binds in the vicinity of the bulge and the two adjacent duplex stems, recognising both specific sequence and structural features of TAR. Binding is mediated by an arginine-rich domain, placing Tat in the family of arginine-rich RNA binding proteins that includes other transactivators, virus capsid proteins and ribosome binding proteins. In order to determine what features of TAR allow Tat to bind efficiently to RNA but not DNA forms, we examined Tat binding to a series of RNA-DNA hybrids. We found that only one specific strand in each duplex stem region needs to be RNA, implying that interaction between Tat and a given stem may be solely or predominantly with one of the two strands. However, the essential strand is not the same one for each stem, suggesting a switch in the bound strand on opposing sides of the bulge.
Several new branched (1, 2), circular (9) and looped oligonucleotides (14-17) were synthesized. 3'-Deoxypsicothymidine was employed to create the site of branching when required. The circular and looped structures were obtained by oxidative disulfide bond formation between mercaptoalkyl tether groups. All the oligonucleotides prepared contained two T11 sequences, and the branched and looped oligomers an additional alternating CT sequence. The melting experiments revealed that the branched oligonucleotides form relatively weak hybrid (double/triple helix) complexes with the single-stranded oligodeoxyribonucleotide, showing a considerable destabilizing effect produced by the structure at the point of branching. The data obtained with looped oligonucleotides demonstrated considerable stabilization of the hybrid (double/triple helix) complexes with the complement. The data reported may be useful in attempting to design new antisense or antigene oligonucleotides capable of forming selective and stable bimolecular hybrid complexes with nucleic acids.
Quantifying interactions in DNA microarrays is of central importance for a better understanding of their functioning. Hybridization thermodynamics for nucleic acid strands in aqueous solution can be described by the so-called nearest neighbor model, which estimates the hybridization free energy of a given sequence as a sum of dinucleotide terms. Compared with its solution counterparts, hybridization in DNA microarrays may be hindered due to the presence of a solid surface and of a high density of DNA strands. We present here a study aimed at the determination of hybridization free energies in DNA microarrays. Experiments are performed on custom Agilent slides. The solution contains a single oligonucleotide. The microarray contains spots with a perfect matching (PM) complementary sequence and other spots with one or two mismatches (MM) : in total 1006 different probe spots, each replicated 15 times per microarray. The free energy parameters are directly fitted from microarray data. The experiments demonstrate a clear correlation between hybridization free energies in the microarray and in solution. The experiments are fully consistent with the Langmuir model at low intensities, but show a clear deviation at intermediate (non-saturating) intensities. These results provide new interesting insights for the quantification of molecular interactions in DNA microarrays.
Lanthanide complexes covalently attached to oligonucleotides have been shown to cleave RNA in a sequence-specific manner. Efficient cleavage, however, is at present limited to single-stranded RNA regions, as RNA in a duplex is considerably more resistant to strand scission. To overcome this limitation, we have designed and synthesised artificial nucleases comprising lanthanide complexes covalently linked to oligodeoxyribonucleotides which cleave a partially complementary RNA at a bulged site, in the duplex region. Strand scission occurs at or near the bulge. Cleavage of the RNA target by the metal complex can be addressed via the major or the minor groove. In an example of a competitive situation, where the cleavage moiety has access to both a bulge and a single-strand region, transesterification at the bulge is favoured. Such artificial ribonucleases may find application as antisense agents and as tools in molecular biology. In addition, the results may have importance for the design of artificial ribonucleases which are able to act with catalytic turnover.
Sequence-specific recognition of DNA is a critical step in gene targeting. Here we describe unique oligonucleotide (ON) hybrids that can stably pair to both strands of a linear DNA target in a RecA-dependent reaction with ATP or ATPγS. One strand of the hybrids is a 30-mer DNA ON that contains a 15-nt-long A/T-rich central core. The core sequence, which is substituted with 2-aminoadenine and 2-thiothymine, is weakly hybridized to complementary locked nucleic acid or 2′-OMe RNA ONs that are also substituted with the same base analogs. Robust targeting reactions took place in the presence of ATPγS and generated metastable double D-loop joints. Since the hybrids had pseudocomplementary character, the component ONs hybridized less strongly to each other than to complementary target DNA sequences composed of regular bases. This difference in pairing strength promoted the formation of joints capable of accommodating a single mismatch. If similar joints can form in vivo, virtually any A/T-rich site in genomic DNA could be selectively targeted. By designing the constructs so that the DNA ON is mismatched to its complementary sequence in DNA, joint formation might allow the ON to function as a template for targeted point mutation and gene correction.
A novel octahedral complex CoII(HAPP)(TFA)2 [hexaazaphenantholine-cyclophane (HAPP), trifluoroacetate (TFA)] is a DNA bulge-specific probe with single-strand DNA cleavage activity in the presence of H2O2. This complex exhibits low affinity towards double-stranded DNA and low reactivity toward single-stranded DNA. Metal–HAPP complexes with different coordination number and ring size were synthesized and their selectivity and reactivity for DNA bulges were compared. The DNA sequence at the bulge site influences the intensity of cleavage at the bulge and the flanking sites after piperidine treatment. Cleavage specificity of CoII(HAPP)(TFA)2 was characterized extensively using scavenger reagents to quench the cleavage reaction and high-resolution polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. In addition, 3′-phosphoglycolate cleavage products were trapped and analyzed by matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry. These data were used to deduce that the DNA cleavage pathway for CoIIHAPP2+ in the presence of H2O2 involves 4′-H abstraction of the deoxyribose moiety.
Transition characteristics and thermodynamic properties of the single-stranded self-transition and the double-stranded association were investigated and analyzed for 9-, 15- and 21-bp non-self-complementary DNA sequences. The multiple transition processes for the single-stranded self-transition and the double-stranded association were further put forth. The experimental results confirmed that the double-stranded association transition was generally imperfect and the thermodynamic properties of the single-stranded self-transition would exert an influence on a duplex formation. Combining ultraviolet melting experiments in various molar ratios, the extent of duplex association was estimated for three double-stranded DNAs. In our experimental range, the extent of duplex association decreases with increasing the number of base pairs in DNA sequences, which suggest that the short oligonucleotides may proceed in a two-state transition while the long oligonucleotides may not. When the extent of duplex association was considered, the true transition enthalpies of a duplex formation derived from UV and differential scanning calorimetry measurements were in good agreement.
The reaction between trans-diamminedichloroplatinum(II) and single-stranded oligonucleotides containing the sequence d(GXG) (X being an adenine, cytosine or thymine residue) yields trans-[Pt(NH3)2[(GXG)-GN7,GN7]] intrastrand cross-links. These cross-links do not prevent the pairing of the platinated oligonucleotides with their complementary strands but they decrease the thermal stability of the duplexes. The thermal stability is not much affected by the chemical nature of the X residue and its complementary base. By gel electrophoresis, it is shown that the trans- [Pt(NH3)2[d(GTG)-GN7,GN7]] cross-link bends the DNA double helix (26 degrees) and unwinds it (45 degrees). The pairing of the platinated oligonucleotides with their complementary strands promotes the rearrangement of the 1,3-intrastrand cross-links into interstrand cross-links. At a given temperature, the nature of the X residue, its complementary base and of the base pairs adjacent to the adducts do not dramatically affect the rate of the reaction. To know whether trans-[Pt(NH3)2[d(GXG)-GN7,GN7]] cross-links do not rearrange in some sequences, the location of these adducts was searched in double-stranded DNA after reaction with trans-diamminedichloroplatinum(II) by means of the 3'-5' exonuclease activity of T4 DNA polymerase. At low level of platination, trans-[Pt(NH3)2[d(GXG)-GN7,GN7]] cross-links were not detected. Monofunctional adducts and interstrand cross-links were mainly formed. These results are discussed in relation with the clinical inefficiency of trans-diamminedichloroplatinum(II).
Oligonucleotides consisting of the isonucleoside repeating unit
2′,5′-anhydro-3′-deoxy-3′-(thymin-1-yl)-d-mannitol (4) were synthesized
with the monomeric unit 4 incorporated into oligonucleotides
as 1′→4′ linkage 4a (oligomer I) or 6′→4′ linkage 4b (oligomer II). The hybrid properties of the two oligonucleotides I and II with their complementary
strands were investigated by thermal denaturation and CD spectra.
Oligonucleotide I (4a) formed
a stable duplex with d(A)14 with a slightly reduced Tm value of 36.6°C,
relative to 38.2°C for the control duplex
d(T)14/d(A)14, but oligomer II (4b) failed to hybridize with a DNA complementary
single strand. The spectrum of the duplex oligomer I/d(A)14 showed
a positive CD band at 217 nm and a negative CD band at 248 nm attributable to
a B-like conformation. Molecular modeling showed that in the case
of oligomer I the C6′ hydroxy
group of each unit could be located in the groove area when hybridized
to the DNA single strand, which might contribute additional hydrogen
bonding to the stability of duplex formation.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are 20–24 nt long endogenous non-coding RNAs that act as post-transcriptional regulators in metazoa and plants. Plant miRNA targets typically contain a single sequence motif with near-perfect complementarity to the miRNA. Here, we extended and applied the program RNAhybrid to identify novel miRNA targets in the complete annotated Arabidopsis thaliana transcriptome. RNAhybrid predicts the energetically most favorable miRNA:mRNA hybrids that are consistent with user-defined structural constraints. These were: (i) perfect base pairing of the duplex from nucleotide 8 to 12 counting from the 5′-end of the miRNA; (ii) loops with a maximum length of one nucleotide in either strand; (iii) bulges with no more than one nucleotide in size; and (iv) unpaired end overhangs not longer than two nucleotides. G:U base pairs are not treated as mismatches, but contribute less favorable to the overall free energy. The resulting hybrids were filtered according to their minimum free energy, resulting in an overall prediction of more than 600 novel miRNA targets. The specificity and signal-to-noise ratio of the prediction was assessed with either randomized miRNAs or randomized target sequences as negative controls. Our results are in line with recent observations that the majority of miRNA targets are not transcription factors.
Activation-induced deaminase (AID) is essential for class switch recombination and somatic hypermutation, and it has the ability to deaminate single-stranded DNA at cytidines. Mammalian class switch regions form R-loops upon transcription in the physiological orientation. The displaced DNA strand of an R-loop is forced to wrap around the RNA-DNA hybrid; hence, it may not have complete exposure to proteins. A fundamental question concerns the extent to which AID is accessible to the displaced strand of a transcription-generated R-loop. We used a minimal R-loop to carry out high-resolution analysis of the precise locations of AID action. We found that AID deaminates on the displaced DNA strand across the entire length of the R-loop. Displaced strand locations with a WRC (where W is A or T and R is A or G) sequence are preferred targets, but there are clear exceptions. These WRC deviations may be due to steric constraints on the accessibility of AID to these sites as the displaced strand twists around the RNA-DNA duplex. This phenomenon may explain the lack of WRC site preference at the mutations surrounding class switch recombination junctions.
The bulged insertions of (R)-1-O-(pyren-1-ylmethyl)glycerol (monomer P) in two complementary 8mer DNA strands (intercalating nucleic acids) opposite to each other resulted in the formation of an easily denaturing duplex, which had lower thermal stability (21.0°C) than the wild-type double-stranded DNA (dsDNA, 26.0°C), but both modified oligodeoxynucleotides had increased binding affinity toward complementary single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) (41.5 and 39.0°C). Zipping of pyrene moieties in an easily denaturing duplex gave formation of a strong excimer band at 480 nm upon excitation at 343 nm in the steady-state fluorescence spectra. The excimer band disappeared upon addition of a similar short dsDNA, but remained when adding a 128mer dsDNA containing the same sequence. When P was inserted into 2′-OMe-RNA strands, the duplex with zipping P was found to be more stable (42.0°C) than duplexes with the complementary ssDNAs (31.5 and 19.5°C). The excimer band observed in the ds2′-OMe-RNA with zipping P had marginal changes upon addition of both 8 and 128mer dsDNA. Synthesized oligonucleotides were tested in a transcriptional inhibition assay for targeting of the open complex formed by Escherichia coli RNA polymerase with the lac UV-5 promoter using the above mentioned 128mer dsDNA. Inhibition of transcription was observed for 8mer DNAs possessing pyrene intercalators and designed to target both template and non-template DNA strands within the open complex. The observed inhibition was partly a result of unspecific binding of the modified DNAs to the RNA polymerase. Furthermore, the addition of 8mer DNA with three bulged insertions of P designed to be complementary to the template strand at the +36 to +43 position downstream of the transcription start resulted in a specific halt of transcription producing a truncated RNA transcript. This is to our knowledge the first report of an RNA elongation stop mediated by a small DNA sequence possessing intercalators. The insertions of P opposite to each other in ds2′-OMe-RNA showed inhibition efficiency of 96% compared with 25% for unmodified ds2′-OMe-RNA.
The effect of loop length on quadruplex stability has been studied when the G-rich strand is present along with its complementary C-rich strand, thereby resulting in competition between quadruplex and duplex structures. Using model sequences with loop lengths varying from T to T5, we carried out extensive FRET to discover the influence of loop length on the quadruplex-Watson Crick duplex competition. The binding data show an increase in the binding affinity of quadruplexes towards their complementary strands upon increasing the loop length. Our kinetic data reveal that unfolding of the quadruplex in presence of a complementary strand involves a contribution from a predominant slow and a small population of fast opening conformer. The contribution from the fast opening conformer increases upon increasing the loop length leading to faster duplex formation. FCS data show an increase in the interconversion between the quadruplex conformers in presence of the complementary strand, which shifts the equilibrium towards the fast opening conformer with an increase in loop length. The relative free-energy difference (ΔΔG°) between the duplex and quadruplex indicates that an increase in loop length favors duplex formation and out competes the quadruplex.
Fluorescent labeling of a short sequence of double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) was achieved by ligating a labeled dsDNA fragment to a stem–loop triplex forming oligonucleotide (TFO). After the TFO has wound around the target sequence by ligand-induced triple helix formation, its extremities hybridize to each other, leaving a dangling single-stranded sequence, which is then ligated to a fluorescent dsDNA fragment using T4 DNA ligase. A non-repeated 15 bp sequence present on lambda DNA was labeled and visualized by fluorescence microscopy after DNA combing. The label was found to be attached at a specific position located at 4.2 ± 0.5 kb from one end of the molecule, in agreement with the location of the target sequence for triple helix formation (4.4 kb from one end). In addition, an alternative combing process was noticed in which a DNA molecule becomes attached to the combing slide from the label rather than from one of its ends. The method described herein provides a new tool for the detection of very short sequences of dsDNA and offers various perspectives in the micromanipulation of single DNA molecules.
In the course of exploring the hybridization properties of glass DNA microarrays, multi-stranded DNA structures were observed that could not be accounted for by classical Watson–Crick base pairing. Non-denatured double-stranded DNA array elements were shown to hybridize to single-stranded (ss)DNA probes. Similarly, ssDNA array elements were shown to bind duplex DNA probes. This led to a series of experiments demonstrating the formation of multi-stranded DNA structures on the surface of microarrays. These structures were observed with a number of heterogeneous sequences, including both purine and pyrimidine bases, with shared sequence identity between the ssDNA and one of the duplex strands. Furthermore, we observed a strong binding preference near the ends of duplexes containing a 3′-homologous strand. We suggest that such binding interactions on cationic solid surfaces could serve as a model for a number of biological processes mediated through multi-stranded DNA.
Synthetic oligonucleotides have been proposed as a new rationally designed class of pharmaceuticals with a mechanism of action based upon a Watson-Crick and/or Hoogsteen type of base pairing with RNA or DNA regions of interest. Two series of 3'-cholesterol and/or 5'-cholesterol conjugated oligonucleotides have been synthesized. The primary structure of these compounds was conceived in a way that should allow a hydrophobic interaction to take place upon bringing the cholesteryl moieties into proximity via a hybridization event. In the first group of compounds the cholesteryl group was tethered to the opposite ends of two oligonucleotides, tandemly addressed to the same complementary strand. An increase in the Tm of duplexes up to 13.3 degrees C was observed in comparison to unmodified oligomers. We observed a higher level of mismatch discrimination for the two contiguous oligonucleotide cholesterol conjugates compared to one continuous oligomer of the same length. A second group of compounds was synthesized as 5',3'-bis-cholesterol containing oligomers, capable of forming 'clamp-shaped' triple-stranded complexes, where cholesterol groups were attached to the termini of duplex and triplex forming domains. Stabilization of triplexes by up to 30 degrees C due to inter-cholesteryl interaction was observed. We detected no triplex formation with a mismatched target. These data suggest that significant stabilization of complexes of nucleic acids could be achieved through inter-cholesteryl hydrophobic interaction.
Trans-activation of HIV-1 by the Tat protein is mediated through a cis-acting element (TAR) in the viral RNA. In order to obtain further insight into the molecular interactions for trans-activation, a detailed mutational analysis of TAR RNA was carried out. TAR RNA forms a hairpin structure with important sequence elements in the single-stranded bulge- and loop-domains. We found that the sequence of the base-pairs flanking the bulge is critical for Tat-mediated trans-activation. In addition, Tat-response is reduced when the bulge is forced into a base-paired configuration through the introduction of complementary nucleotides on the opposite side of the stem. Thus, the 3-nucleotide bulge and adjacent base-pairs comprise a recognition domain with both sequence- and structure-elements. Accessibility of the loop sequences is also important for Tat function, since base-pairing through the formation of a pseudoknot-like structure does inhibit Tat action. A third critical parameter that influences the magnitude of Tat response is the number of loop nucleotides. Finally, the relative spacing between the loop and the bulge is also important. We introduced additional base-pairs in the stem connecting the two domains. Such mutations progressively decreased the efficiency of Tat induction. Interestingly, activity of the HIV-2 Tat protein did markedly increase on targets with one or two additional basepairs. These results suggest that Tat interacts with a cellular loop-binding protein(s) to increase HIV gene expression.