Proton-Coupled Electron Transfer Reactions at a Distance in DNA Duplexes

  • Vladimir ShafirovichEmail author
  • Nicholas E. Geacintov
Part of the Topics in Current Chemistry book series (TOPCURRCHEM, volume 237)


The nucleic acid analog 2-aminopurine (2AP) can be site-specifically incorporated into oligonucleotides without significantly affecting the thermal stabilities of DNA duplexes. Because the absorption band of 2AP extends beyond 300 nm, it can be selectively ionized with intense 308-nm excimer laser pulses by a tandem two-photon absorption mechanism yielding site-specifically positioned 2AP radical cations. The primary radical cations deprotonate yielding 2AP neutral radicals. These neutral radicals are strong one-electron oxidants that are capable of oxidizing guanines by a proton-coupled electron transfer mechanism even when the electron donor–acceptor pair is separated by varying numbers of bridging bases. In this process, the aqueous solution serves as a sink and source of protons in the deprotonation of the guanine radical cation and the protonation of the reduced 2AP acceptor. The involvement of solvent protons in the proton-coupled electron transfer reactions at a distance occurring within the DNA duplexes is manifested by the appearance of a solvent deuterium isotope effect on the reaction rates. The lifetimes of the guanine neutral radicals in DNA are greater than the lifetimes of their radical cation precursors and are limited by trapping reactions leading to the formation of potentially mutagenic oxidatively modified guanine bases.


DNA Oxidative damage Proton-coupled electron transfer Hole transfer Laser flash photolysis 

Abbreviations and Symbols




2-Aminopurine radical cation


2-Aminopurine neutral radical


Guanine radical cation


Guanine neutral radical


2′-Deoxyguanosine radical cation


2′-Deoxyguanosine neutral radical


Neutral radical of 2′-deoxyguanosine 5′-monophosphate






Hydrated electron


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The research described here has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Grant CHE-9700429, by the National Institutes of Health, Grant 5-R01-ES011589, and by a grant from the Kresge Foundation.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chemistry Department and Radiation and Solid State LaboratoryNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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