The structural diversity of C-rich DNA aggregates: unusual self-assembly of beetle-like nanostructures†
We studied the ability of oligonucleotides CnT25 (n = 2, 5, 7, 9, 12, 25) to form an intermolecular i-motif using circular dichroism, ultra-violet spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance, high-resolution atomic force microscopy, high-performance liquid chromatography, and molecular dynamics simulations. The arrangement of single-stranded oligonucleotides in multimer i-motifs was very unusual: C-tracts of different oligonucleotides followed each other consecutively in order to fold into a closed intermolecular i-motif core with minimal loops (one cytidine in a loop spanning over a minor groove, three cytidines in a loop over a major groove); intact T-tracts protruded from predefined loci allowing visualization of beetle-like nanostructures by atomic force microscopy. The same structures were formed from analogous biotinylated oligonucleotides demonstrating one of the potential applications of such structures as carriers of multiple functional groups. Our findings open up possibilities for the rational design of pH-sensitive DNA aggregates and evaluation of the efficiency of their assembly.