Condensation of DNA is vital for its biological functions and controlled nucleic acid assemblies. However, the mechanisms of DNA condensation are not fully understood due to the inability of experiments to access cation distributions and the complex interplay of energetic and entropic forces during assembly. By constructing free energy surfaces using exhaustive sampling and detailed analysis of cation distributions, we elucidate the mechanism of DNA condensation in different salt conditions and with different DNA sequences. We found that DNA condensation is facilitated by the correlated dynamics of the localized cations at the grooves of DNA helices. These dynamics are strongly dependent on the salt conditions and DNA sequences. In the presence of magnesium ions, major groove binding facilitates attraction. In contrast, in the presence of polyvalent cations, minor groove binding serves to create charge patterns, leading to condensation. Our findings present a novel advancement in the field and have broad implications for understanding and controlling nucleic acid complexes in vivo and in vitro.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Computer Science Applications
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry