The proton NMR spectra of DNA three-way junction complexes (TWJ) having unpaired pyrimidines, 5'-TT- and 5'-TC- on one strand at the junction site were assigned from 2D NOESY spectra acquired in H2O and D2O solvents and homonuclear 3D NOESY-TOCSY and 3D NOESY-NOESY in D2O solvent. TWJ are the simplest branched structures found in biologically active nucleic acids. Unpaired nucleotides are common features of such structures and have been shown to stabilize junction formation. The NMR data confirm that the component oligonucleotides assemble to form conformationally homogeneous TWJ complexes having three double-helical, B-form arms. Two of the helical arms stack upon each other. The unpaired pyrimidine bases lie in the minor groove of one of the helices and are partly exposed to solvent. The coaxial stacking arrangement deduced is different from that determined by Rosen and Patel (Rosen, M.A., and D.J. Patel. 1993. Biochemistry. 32:6576–6587) for a DNA three-way junction having two unpaired cytosines, but identical to that suggested by Welch et al. (Welch, J. B., D. R. Duckett, D. M. J. Lilley. 1993. Nucleic Acids Res. 21:4548–4555) on the basis of gel electrophoretic studies of DNA three-way junctions containing unpaired adenosines and thymidines.
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