Solvent effect on the intermolecular proton transfer of the Watson and Crick guanine–cytosine and adenine–thymine base pairs: a polarizable continuum model study†
Herein we present our results on the study of the double proton transfer (DPT) mechanism in the adenine–thymine (AT) and guanine–cytosine (GC) base pairs, both in gas phase and in solution. The latter was modeled using the polarizable continuum method (PCM) in different solvents. According to our DFT calculations, the DPT may occur for both complexes in a stepwise mechanism in condensate phase. In gas phase only the GC base pair exhibits a concerted DPT mechanism. Using the Wigner's tunneling corrections to the transition state theory we demonstrate that such corrections are important for the prediction of the rate constants of both systems in gas and in condensate phase. We also show that (i) as the polarity of the medium decreases the equilibrium constant of the DPT reaction increases in both complexes, and (ii) that the equilibrium constant in the GC complex is four orders of magnitude larger than in AT. This observation suggests that the spontaneous mutations in DNA base pairs are more probable in GC than in AT.