Partial Base Flipping Is Sufficient for Strand Slippage near DNA Duplex Termini

2013-06-05T00:00:00Z (GMT) by Nilesh K. Banavali
Strand slippage is a structural mechanism by which insertion–deletion (indel) mutations are introduced during replication by polymerases. Three-dimensional atomic-resolution structural pathways are still not known for the decades-old template slippage description. The dynamic nature of the process and the higher energy intermediates involved increase the difficulty of studying these processes experimentally. In the present study, restrained and unrestrained molecular dynamics simulations, carried out using multiple nucleic acid force fields, are used to demonstrate that partial base-flipping can be sufficient for strand slippage at DNA duplex termini. Such strand slippage can occur in either strand, i.e. near either the 3′ or the 5′ terminus of a DNA strand, which suggests that similar structural flipping mechanisms can cause both primer and template slippage. In the repetitive mutation hot-spot sequence studied, non-canonical base-pairing with exposed DNA groove atoms of a neighboring G:C base-pair stabilizes a partially flipped state of the cytosine. For its base-pair partner guanine, a similar partially flipped metastable intermediate was not detected, and the propensity for sustained slippage was also found to be lower. This illustrates that a relatively small metastable DNA structural distortion in polymerase active sites could allow single base insertion or deletion mutations to occur, and stringent DNA groove molecular recognition may be required to maintain intrinsic DNA polymerase fidelity. The implications of a close relationship between base-pair dissociation, base unstacking, and strand slippage are discussed in the context of sequence dependence of indel mutations.