Debije, M. G., Strickler, M. T. and Bernhard, W. A. On the Efficiency of Hole and Electron Transfer from the Hydration Layer to DNA: An EPR Study of Crystalline DNA X-Irradiated at 4 K.

The aim of this project was to gain an improved understanding of how the efficiency of hole and electron transfer from the solvation layer to DNA decreases as a function of distance from DNA. The packing of DNA in crystals of known structure makes it possible to calculate the degree of DNA hydration with a precision that is significantly greater than that achievable for amorphous samples. Previous work on oligodeoxynucleotide crystals has demonstrated that the efficiency of free radical trapping by DNA exposed to ionizing radiation at 4 K is relatively insensitive to base sequence, conformation, counterion, or base stacking continuity. Having eliminated these confounding variables, it is now possible to ascertain the degree of radical transfer that occurs from ionized water as a function of DNA hydration (Γ, in mol water/mol nucleotide). EPR is used to measure the hydroxyl radical concentration in crystals irradiated at 4 K. From a lack of hydroxyl radicals trapped in the inner hydration mantle, we determine that hole transfer to DNA is complete for water molecules located within 8 Å. This corresponds to Γ = 9−11 and indicates that hole transfer is 100% (as efficient as direct ionization of DNA) for water molecules adjacent to DNA. Beyond ∼8 Å (Γ > 10), hydroxyl radicals are observed; thus deprotonation of the water radical cation is seen to compete with hole transfer to DNA as soon as one water intervenes between the ionized water and DNA. The boundary for 0% hole transfer is projected to occur somewhere between 15 and 20 waters per nucleotide. Electron transfer, on the other hand, is 100% efficient across the entire range studied, 4.2 ≤ Γ ≤ 15.6.

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