Complexation between DNA and Hydrophilic-Cationic Diblock Copolymers

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We examine connections among polycation composition, DNA-polycation binding thermodynamics, binding strength, and resulting complex properties, for circular and linear DNA and hydrophilic diblock copolymers possessing cationic blocks. Two poly(2-deoxy-2-methacrylamido glucopyranose)-block-poly(N-(2-aminoethyl) methacrylamide) (PMAG-b-PAEMA), with block degrees of polymerization of PMAG56-b-PAEMA30 and PMAG52-b-PAEMA63, are employed. DNA binding behavior of these diblocks is also compared with that of a PAEMA homopolymer, in order to evaluate the role of the hydrophilic, charge-neutral PMAG block. In addition, DNA structure was varied, utilizing both circular and linear DNA with the same contour length. The enthalpy change due to DNA-polycation interactions (ΔHint) is observed via isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) during titrations of DNA with the polycations. With circular DNA, a higher cationic content is found to result in a completion of binding with a smaller amount of polycation, as well as a larger initial Δint. In contrast to the common understanding that a neutral block simply provides colloidal stability, the PMAG block turns out to significantly impact both the extent of the binding and the size and dispersity of the final complexes. With a lower cationic content, the complex is less compact, but both the size and dispersity are more stable. Changes in circular dichroism spectra of DNA are shown to be correlated with PMAG-to-PAEMA block length ratio. PMAG52-b-PAEMA63 leads to stronger binding with DNA, compared to PMAG56-b-PAEMA30. Better-defined polyplexes and more disruption in the DNA helices are observed when the PMAG-to-PAEMA ratio is lower. All in all, while PMAG itself does not directly interact with DNA, the DNA-polycation binding turns out to be sensitive to the balance between the DNA-PAEMA attraction and PMAG solvation. In addition, it is confirmed that polyelectrolyte complexation is favored both entropically and enthalpically when the ionic strength of the solution is low. While only endothermic interactions occur in the buffered systems, exothermic initial interactions are observed in low-salt, unbuffered cases. Finally, complexes formed with linear DNA show clear bimodal size distributions, distinct from those formed with circular DNA. Collectively, these data provide insights into the controllable parameters in DNA-polycation complexation, which may advance the development of polymeric vehicles for large biomolecules such as nucleic acids. (Figure Presented).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2230-2243
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number10
StatePublished - Mar 16 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported primarily by the National Science Foundation through the University of Minnesota Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) under Award Number DMR-1420013. This work was partially funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) program under Award Number 1-DP2-OD00666901. AFM imaging reported in Supporting Information was carried out at the College of Science & Engineering Characterization Facility at University of Minnesota. We acknowledge Dr. Yaoying Wu and Dr. Zachary P. Tolstyka for their help with polycation synthesis and characterization, Dr. Lisa E. Prevette for helpful discussions on ITC experiments, and Peter Schmidt for TEM imaging presented in Supporting Information. We also thank Dr. Robert Geraghty at University of Minnesota for sharing the ITC instrument.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Chemical Society.

MRSEC Support

  • Primary

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.


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