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Biophysical Journal






The A-to-B form transition has been examined in three DNA duplexes, d(CGCGAATTCGCG)2, d(CGCGAATTGCGC), and d(CGCAAATTTCGC), using circular dichroism spectroscopy, ultraviolet resonance Raman (UVRR) spectroscopy, and molecular dynamics (MD) simulation. Circular dichroism spectra confirm that these molecules adopt the A form under conditions of reduced water activity. UVRR results, obtained under similar conditions, suggest that the transition involves a series of intermediate forms between A and B. Cooperative and distinct transitions were observed for the bases and the sugars. Independent MD simulations on d(CGCGAATTCGCG)2 show a spontaneous change from the A to B form in aqueous solution and describe a kinetic model that agrees well with UVRR results. Based on these observations, we predict that the mechanism of the transition involves a series of A/B hybrid forms and is sequential in nature, similar to previous crystallographic studies of derivatized duplexes. A simulation in which waters were restrained in the major groove of B DNA shows a rapid, spontaneous change from B to A at reduced water activity. These results indicate that a quasiergodic sampling of the solvent distribution may be a problem in going from B to A at reduced water activity in the course of an MD simulation.