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The presence of A(n) and A(n)T(n) tracts in double-helical sequences perturbs the structural properties of DNA molecules, resulting in the formation of an alternate conformation to standard B-DNA known as B'-DNA. Evidence for a transition occurring prior to duplex melting in molecules containing A(n) tracts was previously detected by circular dichroism (CD) and calorimetric studies. This premelting transition was attributed to a conformational change from B'- to B-DNA. Structural features of A(n) and A(n)T(n) tracts revealed by X-ray crystallography include a large degree of propeller twisting of adenine bases, narrowed minor grooves, and the formation of three-centered H-bonds between dA and dT bases. We report UV resonance Raman (UVRR) and CD spectroscopic studies of two related DNA dodecamer duplexes, d(CGCAAATTTGCG)(2) (A(3)T(3)) and d(CGCATATATGCG)(2) [(AT)(3)]. These studies address the presence of three-centered H-bonds in the B' conformation and gauge the impact of these putative H-bonds on the structural and thermodynamic properties of the A(3)T(3) duplex. UVRR and CD spectra reveal that the premelting transition is only observed for the A(3)T(3) duplex, is primarily localized to the dA and dT bases, and is associated with base stacking interactions. Spectroscopic changes associated with the premelting transition are not readily detectable for the sugar-phosphate backbone or the cytosine and guanosine bases. The temperature-dependent concerted frequency shifts of dA exocyclic NH(2) and dT C4=O vibrational modes suggest that the A(3)T(3) duplex forms three-centered hydrogen bonds at low temperatures, while the (AT)(3) duplex does not. The enthalpy of this H-bond, estimated from the thermally induced frequency shift of the dT C4=O vibrational mode, is approximately 1.9 kJ/mol or 0.46 kcal/mol.