Evidence that both kinetic and thermodynamic factors govern DNA toroid dimensions: effects of magnesium(II) on DNA condensation by hexammine cobalt(III).

PMID 15122904


Millimolar concentrations of divalent cations are shown to affect the size of toroids formed when DNA is condensed by multivalent cations. The origins of this effect were explored by varying the order in which MgCl(2) was added to a series of DNA condensation reactions with hexammine cobalt chloride. The interplay between Mg(II), temperature, and absolute cation concentration on DNA condensation was also investigated. These studies reveal that DNA condensation is extremely sensitive to whether Mg(II) is associated with DNA prior to condensation or Mg(II) is added concurrently with hexammine cobalt(III) at the time of condensation. It was also found that, in the presence of Mg(II), temperature and dilution can have opposite effects on the degree of DNA condensation. A systematic comparison of DNA condensates observed in this study clearly illustrates that, under our low-salt conditions, toroid size is determined by the kinetics of toroid nucleation and growth. However, when Mg(II) is present during condensation, toroid size can also be limited by a thermodynamic parameter (e.g., undercharging). The path dependence of DNA condensation presented here illustrates that regardless of which particular factors limit toroid growth, toroids formed under the various conditions of this study are largely nonequilibrium structures.