Article révisé par les pairs
Résumé : Background: It is nowadays clear that single base substitutions that occur in the human genome, of which some lead to pathogenic conditions, are non-random and influenced by their flanking nucleobase sequences. However, despite recent progress, the understanding of these "non-local" effects is still far from being achieved. Results: To advance this problem, we analyzed the relationship between the base mutability in specific gene regions and the electron hole transport along the DNA base stacks, as it is one of the mechanisms that have been suggested to contribute to these effects. More precisely, we studied the connection between the normalized frequency of single base substitutions and the vertical ionization potential of the base and its flanking sequence, estimated using MP2/6-31G∗ab initio quantum chemistry calculations. We found a statistically significant overall anticorrelation between these two quantities: the lower the vIP value, the more probable the substitution. Moreover, the slope of the regression lines varies. It is larger for introns than for exons and untranslated regions, and for synonymous than for missense substitutions. Interestingly, the correlation appears to be more pronounced when considering the flanking sequence of the substituted base in the 3' rather than in the 5' direction, which corresponds to the preferred direction of charge migration. A weaker but still statistically significant correlation is found between the ionization potentials and the pathogenicity of the base substitutions. Moreover, pathogenicity is also preferentially associated with larger changes in ionization potentials upon base substitution. Conclusions: With this analysis we gained new insights into the complex biophysical mechanisms that are at the basis of mutagenesis and pathogenicity, and supported the role of electron-hole transport in these matters.