A coarse-grained lattice model of DNA oligonucleotides is proposed to investigate the general mechanisms by which single-stranded oligonucleotides hybridize to their complementary strands in solution. The model, based on a high-coordination cubic lattice, is simple enough to allow the direct simulation of DNA solutions, yet capturing how the fundamental thermodynamic processes are microscopically encoded in the nucleobase sequences. Physically relevant interactions are considered explicitly, such as interchain excluded volume, anisotropic base-pairing and base-stacking, and single-stranded bending rigidity. The model is studied in detail by a specially adapted Monte Carlo simulation method, based on parallel tempering and biased trials, which is designed to overcome the entropic and enthalpic barriers associated with the sampling of hybridization events of multiple single-stranded chains in solution. This methodology addresses both the configurational complexity of bringing together two complementary strands in a favorable orientation (entropic barrier) and the energetic penalty of breaking apart multiple associated bases in a double-stranded state (enthalpic barrier). For strands with sequences restricted to nonstaggering association and homogeneous pairing and stacking energies, base-pairing is found to dominate the hybridization over the translational and conformational entropy. For strands with sequence-dependent pairing corresponding to that of DNA, the complex dependence of the models thermal stability on concentration, sequence, and degree of complementarity is shown to be qualitatively and quantitatively consistent both with experiment and with the predictions of statistical mechanical models.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Physics and Astronomy
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry