Li, X., Sanche, L. and Sevilla, M.D Base Release in Nucleosides Induced by Low-Energy Electrons: A DFT Study. Radiat. Res. 165, 721–729 (2006).
Low-energy electrons are known to induce strand breaks and base damage in DNA and RNA through fragmentation of molecular bonding. Recently the glycosidic bond cleavage of nucleosides by low-energy electrons has been reported. These experimental results call for a theoretical investigation of the strength of the C1′–N link in nucleosides (dA, dC and dT) between the base and deoxyribose before and after electron attachment. Through density functional theory (DFT) calculations, we compare the C1′–N bond strength, i.e., the bond dissociation energy of the neutral and its anionic radical, and find that an excess electron effectively weakens the C1′– N bond strength in nucleosides by 61–75 kcal/mol in the gas phase and 76–83 kcal/mol in the solvated environment. As a result, electron-induced fragmentation of the C1′–N bond in the gas phase is exergonic for dA (ΔG = −14 kcal/mol) and for dT (ΔG = −6 kcal/mol) and is endergonic (ΔG = 1 kcal/ mol) only for dC. In the gas phase all the anionic nucleosides are found to be in valence states. Solvation is found to increase the exergonic nature by an additional 20 kcal, making the fragmentation both exothermic and exergonic for all nucleoside anion radicals. Thus C1′–N bond breaking in nucleoside anion radicals is found to be thermodynamically favorable both in the gas phase and under solvation. The activation barrier for the C1′–N bond breaking process was found to be about 20 kcal/mol in every case examined, suggesting that a 1 eV electron would induce spontaneous cleavage of the bond and that stabilized anion radicals on the DNA strand would undergo base release at only a modest rate at room temperature. These results suggest that base release from nucleosides and DNA is an expected consequence of low-energy electron-induced damage but that the high barrier would inhibit this process in the stable anion radicals.