We have determined the stability of intramolecular quadruplexes that are formed by a variety of G-rich sequences, using oligonucleotides containing appropriately placed fluorophores and quenchers. The stability of these quadruplexes is compared with that of the DNA duplexes that are formed on addition of complementary C-rich oligonucleotides. We find that the linkers joining the G-tracts are not essential for folding and can be replaced with nonnucleosidic moieties, though their sequence composition profoundly affects quadruplex stability. Although the human telomere repeat sequence d[G(3)(TTAG(3))(3)] folds into a quadruplex structure, this forms a duplex in the presence of the complementary C-rich strand at physiological conditions. The Tetrahymena sequence d[G(4)(T(2)G(4))(3)], the sequence d[G(3)(T(2)G(3))(3)], and sequences related to regions of the c-myc promoter d(G(4)AG(4)T)(2) and d(G(4)AG(3)T)(2) preferentially adopt the quadruplex form in potassium-containing buffers, even in the presence of a 50-fold excess of their complementary C-rich strands, though the duplex predominates in the presence of sodium. The HIV integrase inhibitor d[G(3)(TG(3))(3)] forms an extremely stable quadruplex which is not affected by addition of a 50-fold excess of the complementary C-rich strand in both potassium- and sodium-containing buffers. Replacing the TTA loops of the human telomeric repeat with AAA causes a large decrease in quadruplex stability, though a sequence with AAA in the first loop and TTT in the second and third loops is slightly more stable
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