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Title: Why double-stranded RNA resists condensation

The addition of small amounts of multivalent cations to solutions containing double-stranded DNA leads to attraction between the negatively charged helices and eventually to condensation. Surprisingly, this effect is suppressed in double-stranded RNA, which carries the same charge as the DNA, but assumes a different double helical form. However, additional characterization of short (25 base-pairs) nucleic acid (NA) duplex structures by circular dichroism shows that measured differences in condensation are not solely determined by duplex helical geometry. Here we combine experiment, theory, and atomistic simulations to propose a mechanism that connects the observed variations in condensation of short NA duplexes with the spatial variation of cobalt hexammine (CoHex) binding at the NA duplex surface. The atomistic picture that emerged showed that CoHex distributions around the NA reveals two major NA-CoHex binding modes -- internal and external -- distinguished by the proximity of bound CoHex to the helical axis. Decreasing trends in experimentally observed condensation propensity of the four studied NA duplexes (from B-like form of homopolymeric DNA, to mixed sequence DNA, to DNA:RNA hybrid, to A-like RNA) are explained by the progressive decrease of a single quantity: the fraction of CoHex ions in the external binding mode. Thus, while NAmore » condensation depends on a complex interplay between various structural and sequence features, our coupled experimental and theoretical results suggest a new model in which a single parameter connects the NA condensation propensity with geometry and sequence dependence of CoHex binding.« less
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Journal Article
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Journal Name: Nucleic Acids Research, 42(16):10823-10831
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
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Country of Publication:
United States
NUCLEIC ACIDS; ELECTROSTATICS; SCATTERING; SOLVATION nucleic acids; electrostatics; scattering; x-ray; solvation