All-atom molecular dynamics (MD) computer simulations have been applied successfully to duplex DNA structures in solution for some years and found to give close accord with observed results. However, the MD force fields have generally not been parameterized against unusual DNA structures, and their use to obtain dynamical models for this class of systems needs to be independently validated. The four-way junction (4WJ), or Holliday junction, is a dynamic DNA structure involved in central cellular processes of homologous replication and double strand break repair. Two conformations are observed in solution: a planar open-X form (OPN) with a mobile center and four duplex arms, and an immobile stacked-X (STX) form with two continuous strands and two crossover strands, stabilized by high salt conditions. To characterize the accuracy of MD modeling on 4WJ, we report a set of explicit solvent MD simulations of ∼100 ns on the repeat sequence d(CCGGTACCGG) 4 starting from the STX structure (PDB code 1dcw), and an OPN structure built for the same sequence. All 4WJ MD simulations converged to a stable STX structure in close accord with the crystal structure. Our MD beginning in the OPN form converts to the STX form spontaneously at both high and low salt conditions, providing a model for the conformational transition. Thus, these simulations provide a successful account of the dynamical structure of the STX form of d(CCGGTACCGG) 4 in solution, and provide new, to our knowledge, information on the conformational stability of the junction and distribution of counterions in the junction interior. © 2012 Biophysical Society.
Wheatley, E. G., Pieniazek, S. N., Mukerji, I., & Beveridge, D. L. (2012). Molecular dynamics of a DNA Holliday junction: The inverted repeat sequence d(CCGGTACCGG) 4. Biophysical Journal, 102(3), 552–560. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpj.2011.11.4023