Outdoor air pollution is a mixture of multiple atmospheric pollutants, among which nitrogen oxide (NOx) stands out due to its association with several diseases. NOx reactivity can conduct to DNA damage as severe as interstrand crosslinks (ICL) formation, that in turn is able to block DNA replication and transcription. Experimental studies have suggested that the ICL formation due to NOx is realized through a diazonium intermediate (DI). In this work, we have modeled the DI structure, including a DNA double-strand composed of two base pairs GC/CG, being diazotized as one of the guanine nucleotides. The structural stability of DNA with DI lesion was essayed through 500 ns molecular dynamics simulations. It was found that the DNA structure of the oligonucleotide is stable when the DI is present since the loss of a Guanine–Cytosine hydrogen bond is replaced by the presence of two cation-π interactions. Additionally, we have studied the mechanism of formation of a crosslink between the two guanine nucleobases from the modeled DI by carrying out DFT calculations at the M06-L/DNP+ level of theory. Our results show that the mechanism is thermodynamically favored by a strong stabilization of the ICL product, and the process is kinetically viable since its limiting stage is accessible.
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