Student Author:

Abby Bull '16, Gettysburg College

Document Type


Publication Date


Department 1



Quantitative understanding of biomolecular electrostatics, particularly involving multivalent ions and highly charged surfaces, remains lacking. Ion-modulated interactions between nucleic acids provide a model system in which electrostatics plays a dominant role. Using ordered DNA arrays neutralized by spherical cobalt3+ hexammine and Mg2+ ions, we investigate how the interstitial ions modulate DNA-DNA interactions. Using methods of ion counting, osmotic stress, and x-ray diffraction, we systematically determine thermodynamic quantities, including ion chemical potentials, ion partition, DNA osmotic pressure and force, and DNA-DNA spacing. Analyses of the multidimensional data provide quantitative insights into their interdependencies. The key finding of this study is that DNA-DNA forces are observed to linearly depend on the partition of interstitial ions, suggesting the dominant role of ion-DNA coupling. Further implications are discussed in light of physical theories of electrostatic interactions and like-charge attraction.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.




Post Print

Required Publisher's Statement

This article is also available from the publisher’s website.