Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 116–124 | Cite as

The biological equilibrium of base pairs

  • Peter Strazewski


An inherent feature of double-stranded DNA is the possible replacement of any base pair by another one upon replication. A replication-dependent substitution mutation of a matched base pair requires the temporary formation of a mismatched base pair (mispair). A functionally complementary pair of mispairs is ascribed to each of the four types of substitution mutations. Provided that all types of mispairs can be formed, a dynamic biological equilibrium between the four matched base pairs must exist in all DNA, which is directly related to the formation and stability of the corresponding eight mispairs in vivo. Each nucleotide position in a genome can therefore be described as a system of six dynamic equilibria between the four matched base pairs. After a sufficient number of replications, these equilibrium states will express an overall mutation-selection balance for each individual base pair. In a thermodynamic context, the mispairs represent intermediate states on the transformation pathway between the matched base pairs. Catalysts change the stability and probability of formation of intermediate states. Mutagenic proteins are proposed as hypothetical substitution mutation catalysts in vivo. Functionally, they would be capable of recognizing a particular DNA sequence, tautomerizing a nucleotide base thereof, and hence efficiently inducing a specific misincorporation. Phenomenologically such catalysts would accelerate the rates of substitution mutations and provide pathways for directional mutation pressure.

Key words

Thermodynamic model of DNA base pairs Mutation-selection equilibrium Directional mutation pressure Optimons Rate of mutation Substitution mutations Mismatches Rare tautomers Tautomerizing proteins 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Strazewski
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für organische Chemie der UniversitätBaselSwitzerland

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