Jan 1, 1997

DNA condensation by multivalent cations

V A Bloomfield


In the presence of multivalent cations, high molecular weight DNA undergoes a dramatic condensation to a compact, usually highly ordered toroidal structure. This review begins with an overview of DNA condensation: condensing agents, morphology, kinetics, and reversibility, and the minimum size required to form orderly condensates. It then summarizes the statistical mechanics of the collapse of stiff polymers, which shows why DNA condensation is abrupt and why toroids are favored structures. Various ways to estimate or measure intermolecular forces in DNA condensation are discussed, all of them agreeing that the free energy change per base pair is very small, on the order of 1% of thermal energy. Experimental evidence is surveyed showing that DNA condensation occurs when about 90% of its charge is neutralized by counterions. The various intermolecular forces whose interplay gives rise to DNA condensation are then reviewed. The entropy loss upon collapse of the expanded wormlike coil costs free energy, and stiffness sets limits on tight curvature. However, the dominant contributions seem to come from ions and water. Electrostatic repulsions must be overcome by high salt concentrations or by the correlated fluctuations of territor...Continue Reading

Mentioned in this Paper

RNA Conformation
Molecular Helix
Static Electricity
Science of Morphology
Muscular Stiffness
Helix (Snails)

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