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Letters to Nature
Nature 293, 233 - 235 (17 September 1981); doi:10.1038/293233a0

Changes in the helical repeat of poly(dG-m5 dC) · poly(dG-m5dC) and poly(dG-dC) · poly(dG-dC) associated with the B—Z transition

M. Behe, S. Zimmerman & G. Felsenfeld

Laboratory of Molecular Biology, NIAMDD, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland 20205, USA

Random sequence DNA adsorbed to surfaces such as calcium phosphate has recently been shown to be cut preferentially by nucleases1 at sites separated by 10.6±0.1 nucleotides2, corresponding to the helical periodicity of the DNA. We have now applied a variation of this technique to determine the periodicity of the alternating synthetic polydeoxynucleotides poly(dG-dC) . poly(dG-dC) and poly(dG-m5dC) · poly(dG-m5dC) · We have also obtained X-ray diffraction patterns from fibres of both polymers to compare then helical parameters. Evidence from a variety of physical measurements3–5 suggests that in appropriate solvent conditions these polymers can undergo a transition from the usual B form to a new structure tentatively identified with the left-handed Z form. We find by X-ray fibre diffraction that the methylated polymer can adopt a Z form indistinguishable from that of the unmethylated polymer. We further find that when adsorbed to calcium phosphate or calcium oxalate, the B form of each polymer has a repeat of ~10.5 base pairs (bp), while the repeat of the Z form is ~13.6 bp.

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