The hydration of a DNA - Amphiphile complex

Cecilia Leal, Lars Wadsö, Gerd Olofsson, Maria Miguel, Håkan Wennerström

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We present measurements of isothermal DNA-hexadecyltrimethylammonium (DNACTA) complex and pure DNA hydration at 25°C using a sorption microcalorimeter. This calorimeter provides simultaneous measurement of (i) water activity (sorption isotherms) and (ii) the partial molar enthalpy of water as a function of water uptake. For pure DNA, hydration is exothermic over the studied concentration range and we find an approximately linear relation between the partial molar enthalpy and the partial molar free energy. A kink in the isotherm appears at 20.0 ± 0.3 water molecules per base pair for a water activity of 0.80, consistent with A-B transition of the DNA. There is no detectable heat effect associated with this transition. At low water contents, the hydration of the DNACTA (1:1) complex is exothermic as for the pure DNA, but after incorporation of the first 7.0 ± 0.1 water molecules, the enthalpy changes sign. At 22 water molecules per base pair, the enthalpy levels off to 2.7 ± 0.2 kJ/mol. In a separate experiment, the swelling limit for the DNACTA complex was found to be 27 ± 1 waters per base pair. The DNACTA complex is arranged in a hexagonal structure. We propose a model for the DNACTA complex based on the packing of the components in an electroneutral way consisting of six DNA helices, presumably in an A configuration, placed around a central CTA+ cylinder. The hydration of the complex is seen as a balance between the attractive electrostatic interaction causing the formation of the complex and a repulsive component arising from a hexagonal deformation of CTA+ cylinders. An important contribution to the partial molar enthalpy of water comes, in this interpretation, from the release of conformational constraints of the CTA ion alkyl chains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3044-3050
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number9
StatePublished - Mar 4 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Materials Chemistry


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