The suppression and promotion of DNA charge inversion by mixing counterions†
In the preset study, we report the suppression and promotion of DNA charge inversion by mixing a quadrivalent counterion (spermine) with mono-, di- and trivalent counterions by dynamic light scattering (DLS) and single molecule electrophoresis (SME) methods. We find that the electrophoretic mobility of DNA in spermine solution decreases in the presence of monovalent sodium ions and divalent magnesium ions. It means that the charge neutralization of DNA by the quadrivalent counterion is suppressed when adding extra mono- or divalent counterions. More specifically, at a high concentration of spermine, the positive mobility can switch back to a negative value by adding mono- and divalent counterions. Thus, charge neutralization and inversion of DNA by quadrivalent counterions is suppressed in the mono- and divalent ion solution. However, the scenario changes dramatically when we add trivalent ions into the solution of DNA and spermine. In this case, the charge neutralization and inversion of DNA is promoted rather than suppressed by mixing with trivalent ions. The negative electrophoretic mobility can be promoted to a positive value, which corresponds to the charge inversion, by trivalent counterions. Thus trivalent and quadrivalent counterions work cooperatively in DNA charge neutralization and inversion. This promotion also occurs when highly positively charged chitosan is introduced into the solution. We explain the observation by the counterion complexation that is related to DNA condensation, which is supported by the images of atomic force microscopy (AFM).