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Urea destabilizes RNA by forming stacking interactions and multiple hydrogen bonds with nucleic acid bases

By U. Deva Priyakumar, Changbong Hyeon, D. Thirumalai and Alexander D. MacKerell Jr


Urea titration of RNA by urea is an effective approach to investigate the forces stabilizing this biologically important molecule. We used all atom molecular dynamics simulations using two urea force fields and two RNA constructs to elucidate in atomic detail the destabilization mechanism of folded RNA in aqueous urea solutions. Urea denatures RNA by forming multiple hydrogen bonds with the RNA bases and has little influence on the phosphodiester backbone. Most significantly we discovered that urea engages in stacking interactions with the bases. We also estimate, for the first time, m-value for RNA, which is a measure of the strength of urea-RNA interactions. Our work provides a conceptual understanding of the mechanism by which urea enhances RNA folding rates.Comment: 22 pages, 17 figure

Topics: Quantitative Biology - Biomolecules, Condensed Matter - Soft Condensed Matter, Physics - Biological Physics
Year: 2009
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