Hydroxyl radical footprinting can probe the solvent accessibility of the ribose moiety of the individual nucleotides of DNA and RNA. Semi-automated analytical tools are presented for the quantitative analyses of nucleic acid footprint transitions in which processes such as folding or ligand binding are followed as a function of time or ligand concentration. Efficient quantitation of the intensities of the electrophoretic bands comprising the footprinting reaction products is achieved by fitting a series of Lorentzian curves to line profiles obtained from gels utilizing sequentially relaxed constraints consistent with electrophoretic mobility. An automated process of data 'standardization' has been developed that corrects for differences in the loading amounts in the electrophoresis. This process enhances the accuracy of the derived transitions and makes generating them easier. Together with visualization of the processed footprinting in false-color two-dimensional maps, DNA and RNA footprinting data can be accurately, precisely and efficiently processed allowing transitions to be objectively and comprehensively analyzed. The utility of this new analysis approach is illustrated by its application to the ion-meditated folding of a large RNA molecule.
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