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Biophys J. 1996 Apr;70(4):1933-9.

DNA binding to mica correlates with cationic radius: assay by atomic force microscopy.

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Department of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara 93106, USA.


In buffers containing selected transition metal salts, DNA binds to mica tightly enough to be directly imaged in the buffer in the atomic force microscope (AFM, also known as scanning force microscope). The binding of DNA to mica, as measured by AFM-imaging, is correlated with the radius of the transition metal cation. The transition metal cations that effectively bind DNA to mica are Ni(II), Co(II), and Zn(II), which have ionic radii from 0.69 to 0.74 A. In Mn(II), ionic radius 0.82 A, DNA binds weakly to mica. In Cd(II) and Hg(II), respective ionic radii of 0.97 and 1.1 A, DNA does not bind to mica well enough to be imaged with the AFM. These results may to relate to how large a cation can fit into the cavities above the recessed hydroxyl groups in the mica lattice, although hypotheses based on hydrated ionic radii cannot be ruled out. The dependence of DNA binding on the concentrations of the cations Ni(II), Co(II), or Zn(II) shows maximal DNA binding at approximately 1-mM cation. Mg(II) does not bind DNA tightly enough to mica for AFM imaging. Mg(II) is a Group 2 cation with an ionic radius similar to that of Ni(II). Ni(II), Co(II), and Zn(II) have anomalously high enthalpies of hydration that may relate to their ability to bind DNA to mica. This AFM assay for DNA binding to mica has potential applications for assaying the binding of other polymers to mica and other flat surfaces.

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