The structure of some 'short' DNA fragments with 106-108 base-pairs and of a 'long' kinetoplast DNA fragment with 419 base-pairs has been analyzed by electro-optical procedures. According to their electrophoretic mobilities and circularization probabilities, it was concluded that two of our short fragments with clusters of four and five and six adenosines phased at the period of the double helix are inherently curved with an approximate curvature around 200°. The dichroism decay curves of our short fragments exhibited two processes. A fast one with time constants of approx. 100 ns is attributed to bending; the bending amplitudes observed for the fragments with dA4and dA5 6clusters are slightly higher (23 and 29%, respectively) than those observed for control fragments (17-20%). The second process reflects the overall rotational diffusion of the whole fragments and shows some variation with the DNA sequence, but on average the rotation of fragments with dA4and dA5 6clusters corresponds to that observed for standard DNA. Since the rotational diffusion coefficients are very strongly dependent on the effective hydrodynamic lengths, we must conclude that the effective lengths of our fragments, including the 'curved' ones, are very similar under the conditions of our experiments. The rotation time constant for the long kinetoplast DNA is also rather close to those observed for the usual DNA fragments of corresponding length. One way to resolve the conflict of our results with conclusions obtained from other investigations would invoke the assumption that the curved fragments are not 'elastic'. According to this hypothesis, electric field pulses would stretch the curved fragments to an almost straight form and the stretched DNA would return to its equilibrium state with a time constant longer than the rotation time constant. © 1987.
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