Density-functional theory was used to study the properties (binding geometries and affinities for the natural DNA bases) of various degenerate nucleobases, which bind without discrimination to the purines or pyrimidines. The data for purine mimics (Z and K) indicates that although stronger binding strengths are calculated for pairs with cytosine compared with thymine, cytosine binds to a less stable tautomer of the nucleobase mimic. Indeed, the energy differences between the binding strengths and the tautomers effectively cancel and thereby provide a possible explanation for the observed degenerate properties of these molecules. Similar trends are found for the pyrimidine mimics (M and P); however, the energy differences do not cancel, even upon inclusion of environmental effects. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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