Locked nucleic acids (LNA), conformationally restricted nucleotide analogues, are known to enhance pairing stability and selectivity toward complementary strands. With the aim to contribute to a better understanding of the origin of these effects, the structure, thermal stability, hybridization thermodynamics, and base-pair dynamics of a full-LNA:DNA heteroduplex and of its isosequential DNA:DNA homoduplex were monitored and compared. CD measurements highlight differences in the duplex structures: the homoduplex and heteroduplex present B-type and A-type helical conformations, respectively. The pairing of the hybrid duplex is characterized, at all temperatures monitored (between 15 and 37°C), by a larger stability constant but a less favorable enthalpic term. A major contribution to this thermodynamic profile emanates from the presence of a hairpin structure in the LNA single strand which contributes favorably to the entropy of interaction but leads to an enthalpy penalty upon duplex formation. The base-pair opening dynamics of both systems was monitored by NMR spectroscopy via imino protons exchange measurements. The measurements highlight that hybrid G-C base-pairs present a longer base-pair lifetime and higher stability than natural G-C base-pairs, but that an LNA substitution in an A-T base-pair does not have a favorable effect on the stability. The thermodynamic and dynamic data confirm a more favorable stacking of the bases in the hybrid duplex. This study emphasizes the complementarities between dynamic and thermodynamical studies for the elucidation of the relevant factors in binding events.
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