Structure of strand-separted DNA in different environments studied by linear dichroism
Journal article, 1979
We have studied the denaturation of DNA by linear dichroism (LD) techniques in the following systems: (1) in aqueous solution at low pH, (2) in 90% (w/w) ethylene glycol and in 90% glycerol solutions, and (3) in a matrix of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA). We report that denatured DNA at low ionic strength can be oriented by shear forces in all these systems and that it exhibits positive LD with markedly varying LD/A over the absorption band centered at 260 nm (A being the ordinary absorbance) as compared to the negative LD with approximately constant LD/A of ordinary native DNA. These results are interpreted in terms of a large tilt of the planes of the DNA bases. DNA adopts denatured forms in (1) aqueous solutions at pH < 3.5, (2) ethylene glycol and glycerol at low Na+ concentrations, and (3) PVA after heating. If the denaturation is done in dry PVA, a complete re-formation of the double helix is obtained after humidifying (60% w/w) the matrix. This shows that the matrix can keep the two strands in a position allowing a perfect fitting on reassociation. Previous attempts to determine any intrinsic LD of denatured DNA have failed, probably due to the fact that, unless a very low ionic strength is used, the flexibility of the single strands prevents the orientation required to give a detectable LD signal even with recently developed high-sensitivity measurement techniques.