Orientation of DNA during gel electrophoresis studied with linear dichroism spectroscopy
Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift, 1988

A method for in situ study of orientation of DNA during gel electrophoresis has been developed. Linear dichroism spectra measured by this phase-modulation technique can sensitively and selectively detect orientation of DNA during electrophoretic migration in gel. [Measurement of “electrophoretic orientation” was first reported in 1985 by B. Åkerman, M. Jonsson, and B. Nordén (1985) (J. Chem. Soc. Chem. Commun. 422–423)]. Restriction fragments of duplex DNA of lengths in the ranges of 300–2319 base pairs (bp) and 4361–23130 bp have been studied in 5% polyacrylamide and 1% agarose gels, respectively. The fragments become preferentially oriented with the DNA helix axis parallel to the migration direction. In agarose the orientation is found to increase sigmoidally, and in polyacrylamide, linearly, with the electric field strength, within the field ranges accessible to measurement (0–40 and 5–40 V/cm, respectively). In both types of gels a considerable increase in orientation with length of DNA was observed. Compared to dipole orientation in electric fields, the electrophoretic orientation is high: orientation factor S = 0.027 in agarose for 23130 bp at 10 V/cm and S = 0.004 in polyacrylamide for 2319 bp at 10 V/cm. In addition to orientation of DNA, the electrophoresis also leads to orientation effects in the gel structure owing to Joule heating. In agarose there is also an effect that is associated with the migrating DNA zones and that produces different orientations of the gel at the front and rear parts of a zone. Evidence is presented that this effect is due to a DNA-induced electroosmotic flow causing a contraction of the gel in the front of the zone and an expansion in the rear. The experimental results on DNA orientation are compared with the reptation theories for gel electrophoresis. The theory of Lumpkin et al. [O. J. Lumpkin, P. Dejardin, and B. H. Zimm (1985) Biopolymers24, 1573–1593] predicts no orientation length dependence, but it does predict a shape of the field dependence that resembles the shape observed in agarose. The theory of Slater and Noolandi [G. W. Slater and J. Noolandi (1986) Biopolymers25, 431–454] predicts an orientational length dependence that is an order of magnitude less than the experimental one, and a field dependence that agrees neither with the sigmoidal shape observed in agarose nor with the linear dependence in polyacrylamide.


Mats Jonsson

Institutionen för fysikalisk kemi

Björn Åkerman

Institutionen för fysikalisk kemi

Bengt Nordén

Institutionen för fysikalisk kemi


0006-3525 (ISSN) 1097-0282 (eISSN)

Vol. 27 3 381-414


Biokemi och molekylärbiologi



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