Responsive polymer gels: Double-stranded versus single-stranded DNA

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Cross-linking of polyelectrolytes such as DNA gives gels that are osmotically highly swollen but contract upon addition of electrolytes and, in particular, upon association of oppositely charged cosolutes with the polyelectrolyte chain. The deswelling behavior of cross-linked DNA gels thus reflects the DNA-cosolute interactions and provides a basis for the development of responsive DNA formulations. Gels of both single-and double-stranded DNA have interesting applications, and a comparison between them provides the basis for understanding mechanisms. Denaturation of cross-linked ds-DNA gels was induced by heating them above the melting temperature and then cooling. This process, studied by fluorescence using ethidium bromide, appeared to be reversible when a heating/cooling cycle was performed. The swelling behavior upon addition of different cosolutes, such as metal ions, polyamines, charged proteins, and surfactants, was investigated for different DNA gel samples, including long and short ds-DNA and long and short ss-DNA. The DNA molecular weight was found to have only a slight effect on the deswelling curves, whereas conformation exhibited a pronounced effect. In general, single-stranded DNA gels exhibited a larger collapse in the presence of cations than did double-stranded DNA. This difference was more pronounced with surfactants than with the other cosolutes investigated. The difference between double- and single-stranded DNA was attributed to differences in linear charge density, chain flexibility, and hydrophobicity. For surfactants with different chain lengths, the swelling behavior displayed by ss-DNA can be interpreted in terms of an interplay between hydrophobic and electrostatic interactions, the latter being influenced by polymer flexibility. Increasing hydrophobicity of the network leads to a decreased critical aggregation concentration (cac) for the surfactant/gel complex, as a result of the strengthened hydrophobic attractive force between the surfactant and the gel chain. The swelling of DNA gels appears to be reversible and to be independent of DNA conformation. Surfactant-induced deswelling of DNA gels under some conditions appears to be quite homogeneous, whereas under other conditions, there is a separation into a collapsed region in the outer parts of the gel sample and an inside swollen part. Such "skin" formation is quite different for ss- and ds-DNA, with ss-DNA giving more pronounced skin formation over a wider rangp of binding ratio, beta. For example, no macroscopic separation into collapsed and swollen regions was observed at intermediate degrees of binding for ds-DNA gels, whereas a dense surfactant-rich surface phase (skin) was found to coexist with a swollen core network for ss-DNA gels with beta > 0.5. One explanation for this difference is the large deformation energy required for the compression of the very stiff ds-DNA chains.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Physical Chemistry
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10886-10896
JournalThe Journal of Physical Chemistry Part B
Issue number37
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Publication categoryResearch