A Arcella, J Dreyer, E Ippoliti, I Ivani, G Portella, V Gabelica, P Carloni, M Orozco
Angew Chem Int Ed Engl
By combining ion-mobility mass spectrometry experiments with sub-millisecond classical and ab initio molecular dynamics we fully characterized, for the first time, the dynamic ensemble of a model nucleic acid in the gas phase under electrospray ionization conditions. The studied oligonucleotide unfolds upon vaporization, loses memory of the solution structure, and explores true gas-phase conformational space. Contrary to our original expectations, the oligonucleotide shows very rich dynamics in three different timescales (multi-picosecond, nanosecond, and sub-millisecond). The shorter timescale dynamics has a quantum mechanical nature and leads to changes in the covalent structure, whereas the other two are of classical origin. Overall, this study suggests that a re-evaluation on our view of the physics of nucleic acids upon vaporization is needed.