Electrophoresis, Vol.26, No.1, 64-70, 2005
Effect of topological asymmetry on the electrophoretic mobility of branched DNA structures with and without single-base mismatches
The electrophoretic mobility of three-arm star DNA structures with varying degrees of branch length asymmetry has been investigated in polyacrylamide (PAA) hydrogels. We report the effect of single-base mismatches, adjacent to the branch point, on the mobility of branched DNA with three different arm lengths. Branched DNA structures were. formed using wild-type and mutated fragments of the p53 tumor suppressor gene, which is believed to play an important role in cancer development. Branching was directed at the site of several previously characterized mutations in exon 7 of p53. At a given gel concentration, the mobility of branched DNA with fully complementary base pairing is found to increase as the degree of branch length asymmetry is increased. Ferguson analysis of the gel electrophoresis data leads to a retardation coefficient that is strongly dependent on topology. This finding can be explained in terms of a minimum molecular cross-section for each molecule. Specifically, we show that structures with the smallest molecular cross-section can access more pores in the gel, which leads to higher mobility. Our results can also be understood by considering the rotational diffusivity of branched DNA. Asymmetric DNA stars with higher calculated rotational diffusivities also have higher mobilities. When a mutated base is present in junctions with low degrees of branch length asymmetry, adjacent to the branch point, the mobility increases in comparison to the fully complementary molecules. The reason for this increased mobility is unclear, here, we propose that the mismatched base introduces additional flexibility to the arm containing the mutation leading to higher conformational freedom and enhanced mobility in gels. When a mismatched base is present in junctions with high degrees of branch length asymmetry, the opposite result is obtained. Here, the mutated species has a lower mobility. This result is argued to arise from incomplete hybridization and/or frayed ends. Finally, we have shown that by using two of the branch point oligonucleotides as probe molecules, mutations known to occur at specific sites can be detected through the mobility shift. If the sequences of the probe chains are changed in a controlled manner, the location and base of the mutant can also be determined.