Unpaired bases in DNA have been assigned a possible role in the mechanism of frameshift mutagenesis in sequences with repeated base pairs1. They also occur in quasipalindromic DNA sequences, which have been implicated in mutagenesis where there are no repeated base pairs, through the formation of single-stranded hairpin loops2,3. The conformation of unpaired bases in DNA has been the subject of numerous thermodynamic as well as high resolution NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) studies (reviewed in ref. 4). The NMR studies in solution5 have shown that the duplex of the tridecamer DNA fragment d(CGCAGAATTCGCG) remains intact, and that the unpaired adenosines are stacked into the duplex. Having crystallized this oligonucleotide and determined its structure, we find its conformation in the crystal is close to that of a B-DNA duplex, with the two additional adenosines looped out from the double helix and causing little disruption of the rest of the structure.
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Joshua-Tor, L., Rabinovich, D., Hope, H. et al. The three-dimensional structure of a DNA duplex containing looped-out bases. Nature 334, 82–84 (1988). https://doi.org/10.1038/334082a0