Coarse-Grained Simulations Complemented by Atomistic Molecular Dynamics Provide New Insights into Folding and Unfolding of Human Telomeric G‑Quadruplexes
journal contributionposted on 21.10.2016 by Petr Stadlbauer, Liuba Mazzanti, Tristan Cragnolini, David J. Wales, Philippe Derreumaux, Samuela Pasquali, Jiří Šponer
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G-quadruplexes are the most important noncanonical DNA architectures. Many quadruplex-forming sequences, including the human telomeric sequence d(GGGTTA)n, have been investigated due to their implications in cancer and other diseases, and because of their potential in DNA-based nanotechnology. Despite the availability of atomistic structural studies of folded G-quadruplexes, their folding pathways remain mysterious, and mutually contradictory models of folding coexist in the literature. Recent experiments convincingly demonstrated that G-quadruplex folding often takes days to reach thermodynamic equilibrium. Based on atomistic simulations of diverse classes of intermediates in G-quadruplex folding, we have suggested that the folding is an extremely multipathway process combining a kinetic partitioning mechanism with conformational diffusion. However, complete G-quadruplex folding is far beyond the time scale of atomistic simulations. Here we use high-resolution coarse-grained simulations to investigate potential unfolding intermediates, whose structural dynamics are then further explored with all-atom simulations. This multiscale approach indicates how various pathways are interconnected in a complex network. Spontaneous conversions between different folds are observed. We demonstrate the inability of simple order parameters, such as radius of gyration or the number of native H-bonds, to describe the folding landscape of the G-quadruplexes. Our study also provides information relevant to further development of the coarse-grained force field.