Mondal, Padmabati; Biswas, Mithun; Goldau, Thomas; Heckel, Alexander; Burghardt, Irene
In Search of an Efficient Photoswitch for Functional RNA: Design Principles from a Microscopic Analysis of Azobenzene-linker-RNA Dynamics with Different Linkers
JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY B, 119:11275-11286, AUG 27 2015

The design of optimal photoswitches to regulate nucleic acid functionality is a considerable challenge. Azobenzene switches that are covalently bound to the nucleic acid backbone are a paradigm example that has been studied using different types of linker species connecting the chromophore to the backbone. To support experimental efforts to construct optimal azobenzene linker RNA combinations, we introduce here a systematic approach for theoretical analysis, which provides criteria for the local embedding of the chromophore via a chosen linker. Using a local reference frame adapted to the chromophore, quantitative measures are provided for (i) the propensity of stacking in competition with a drift toward the minor or major groove, (ii) the tendency to disrupt the native hydrogen bond network, (iii) the structural flexibility of the chromophore linker combination, and (iv) the correlations with the presence of a base in the opposite strand. Large differences in structural stability between the trans and cis forms of the azobenzene chromophore, according to these criteria, indicate good functionality and lead to significant differences in melting temperatures. In particular, a recently synthesized deoxyribose linker proves optimal within the set of azobenzene-linker-RNA combinations considered.


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