Differences in Conformational Sampling and Intrinsic Electric Fields Drive Ion Binding in Telomeric and TERRA G-Quadruplexes

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American Chemical Society


The formation of G-quadruplexes (GQs) occurs in guanine-rich sequences of DNA and RNA, producing highly stable and structurally diverse noncanonical nucleic acid structures. GQs play crucial roles in regulating transcription, translation, and replication and maintaining the genome, among others; thus, changes to their structures can lead to diseases such as cancer. Previous studies using polarizable molecular dynamics simulations have shown differences in ion binding properties between telomeric and telomeric repeat-containing RNA GQs despite architectural similarities. Here, we used volume-based metadynamics and repulsive potential simulations in conjunction with polarizable force fields to quantify the impact of ion binding on the GQ dynamics and ion binding free energies. Furthermore, we describe how GQs exert electric fields on their surroundings to link dynamics with variations in the electronic structure. Our findings provide new insights into the energetic, physical, and conformational properties of GQs and expose subtle but important differences between DNA and RNA GQs with the same fold.