Melting studies of short DNA hairpins: influence of loop sequence and adjoining base pair identity on hairpin thermodynamic stability.Biopolymers. 1999 Oct 05; 50(4):425-42.B
Spectroscopic and calorimetric melting studies of 28 DNA hairpins were performed. These hairpins form by intramolecular folding of 16 base self-complementary DNA oligomer sequences. Sequence design dictated that the hairpin structures have a six base pair duplex linked by a four base loop and that the first five base pairs in the stem are the same in every molecule. Only loop sequence and identity of the duplex base pair closing the loop vary for the set of hairpins. For these DNA samples, melting studies were carried out to investigate effects of the variables on hairpin stability. Stability of the 28 oligomers was ascertained from their temperature-induced melting transitions in buffered 115 mM Na(+) solvent, monitored by ultraviolet absorbance and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). Experiments revealed the melting temperatures of these molecules range from 32.4 to 60.5 degrees C and are concentration independent over strand concentrations of 0.5 to 260 microM; thus, as expected for hairpins, the melting transitions are apparently unimolecular. Model independent thermodynamic transition parameters, DeltaH(cal), DeltaS(cal), and DeltaG(cal), were determined from DSC measurements. Model dependent transition parameters, DeltaH(vH), DeltaS(vH), and DeltaG(vH) were estimated from a van't Hoff (two-state) analysis of optical melting transitions. Results of these studies reveal a significant sequence dependence to DNA hairpin stability. Thermodynamic parameters evaluated by either procedure reveal the transition enthalpy, DeltaH(cal) (DeltaH(vH)) can differ by as much as 20 kcal/mol depending on sequence. Similarly, values of the transition entropy DeltaS(cal) (DeltaS(vH)) can differ by as much as 60 cal/Kmol (eu) for different molecules. Differences in free energies DeltaG(cal) (DeltaG(vH)) are as large as 4 kcal/mol for hairpins with different sequences. Comparisons between the model independent calorimetric values and the thermodynamic parameters evaluated assuming a two-state model reveal that 10 of the 28 hairpins display non-two-state melting behavior. The database of sequence-dependent melting free energies obtained for the hairpins was employed to extract a set of n-n (nearest-neighbor) sequence dependent loop parameters that were able to reproduce the input data within error (with only two exceptions). Surprisingly, this suggests that the thermodynamic stability of the DNA hairpins can in large part be reasonably represented in terms of sums of appropriate nearest-neighbor loop sequence parameters.