Toward true DNA base-stacking energies: MP2, CCSD(T), and complete basis set calculations

Pavel Hobza, JirĂ­ Sponer
Journal of the American Chemical Society 2002 October 2, 124 (39): 11802-8
Stacking energies in low-energy geometries of pyrimidine, uracil, cytosine, and guanine homodimers were determined by the MP2 and CCSD(T) calculations utilizing a wide range of split-valence, correlation-consistent, and bond-functions basis sets. Complete basis set MP2 (CBS MP2) stacking energies extrapolated using aug-cc-pVXZ (X = D, T, and for pyrimidine dimer Q) basis sets equal to -5.3, -12.3, and -11.2 kcal/mol for the first three dimers, respectively. Higher-order correlation corrections estimated as the difference between MP2 and CCSD(T) stacking energies amount to 2.0, 0.7, and 0.9 kcal/mol and lead to final estimates of the genuine stacking energies for the three dimers of -3.4, -11.6, and -10.4 kcal/mol. The CBS MP2 stacking-energy estimate for guanine dimer (-14.8 kcal/mol) was based on the 6-31G(0.25) and aug-cc-pVDZ calculations. This simplified extrapolation can be routinely used with a meaningful accuracy around 1 kcal/mol for large aromatic stacking clusters. The final estimate of the guanine stacking energy after the CCSD(T) correction amounts to -12.9 kcal/mol. The MP2/6-31G(0.25) method previously used as the standard level to calculate aromatic stacking in hundreds of geometries of nucleobase dimers systematically underestimates the base stacking by ca. 1.0-2.5 kcal/mol per stacked dimer, covering 75-90% of the intermolecular correlation stabilization. We suggest that this correction is to be considered in calibration of force fields and other cheaper computational methods. The quality of the MP2/6-31G(0.25) predictions is nevertheless considerably better than suggested on the basis of monomer polarizability calculations. Fast and very accurate estimates of the MP2 aromatic stacking energies can be achieved using the RI-MP2 method. The CBS MP2 calculations and the CCSD(T) correction, when taken together, bring only marginal changes to the relative stability of H-bonded and stacked base pairs, with a slight shift of ca. 1 kcal/mol in favor of H-bonding. We suggest that the present values are very close to ultimate predictions of the strength of aromatic base stacking of DNA and RNA bases.

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