Spatial Distribution of Competing Ions around DNA in Solution

Kurt Andresen, Gettysburg College
R. Das, Stanford University
Hye Yoon Park, Cornell University
H. Smith, Cornell University
Lisa W. Kwok, Cornell University
Jessica S. Lamb, Cornell University
E. J. Kirkland, Cornell University
D. Herschlag, Stanford University
K. D. Finkelstein, Cornell University
Lois Pollack, Cornell University

Copyright 2004, The American Physical Society


The competition of monovalent and divalent cations for proximity to negatively charged DNA is of biological importance and can provide strong constraints for theoretical treatments of polyelectrolytes. Resonant x-ray scattering experiments have allowed us to monitor the number and distribution of each cation in a mixed ion cloud around DNA. These measurements provide experimental evidence to support a general theoretical prediction: the normalized distribution of each ion around polyelectrolytes remains constant when ions are mixed at different ratios. In addition, the amplitudes of the scattering signals throughout the competition provide a measurement of the surface concentration parameter that predicts the competition behavior of these cations. The data suggest that ion size needs to be taken into account in applying Poisson-Boltzmann treatments to polyelectrolytes such as DNA.