Interactions between identical DNA double helices

Chun Liang Lai, Chuanying Chen, Shu Ching Ou, Mara Prentiss, B. Montgomery Pettitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The molecular mechanism of specific interactions between double stranded DNA molecules has been investigated for many years. Problems remain in how confinement, ions, and condensing agents change the interactions. We consider how the orientational alignment of DNAs contributes to the interactions via free energy simulations. Here we report on the effective interactions between two parallel DNA double helices in 150-mM NaCl solution using all atom models. We calculate the potential of mean force (PMF) of DNA-DNA interactions as a function of two coordinates, interhelical separation of parallel double helices and relative rotation of a DNA molecule with respect to the other about the helical axis. We generate the two-dimensional PMF to better understand the effective interactions when a DNA molecule is in juxtaposition with another. The analysis of the ion and solvent distributions around the DNA and particularly in the interface region shows that certain alignments of the DNA pair enhance the interactions. At local free energy minima in distance and alignment, water molecules and Na+ ions form a hydrogen bonded network with the phosphates from each DNA. This network contributes an attractive energy component to the DNA-DNA interactions. Our results provide a molecular mechanism whereby local DNA-DNA interactions, depending on the helical orientation, give a potential mechanism for stabilizing pairing of much larger lengths of homologous DNA that have been seen experimentally. The study suggests an atomically detailed local picture of relevance to certain aspects of DNA condensation or aggregation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number032414
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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