Positively charged ions, atoms, or molecules compensate the high negative charge of the nucleic acid backbone. Their presence is critical to the biological function of DNA and RNA. This review focuses on experimental studies probing () interactions between small ions and nucleic acids and () ion-mediated interactions between nucleic acid duplexes. Experimental results on these simple model systems can be compared with specific theoretical models to validate their predictions. Small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) provides unique insight into these interactions. Anomalous SAXS reports the spatial correlations of condensed (e.g., locally concentrated) counterions to individual DNA or RNA duplexes. SAXS very effectively reports interactions between nucleic acid helices, which range from strongly repulsive to strongly attractive depending on the ionic species present. The sign and strength of interparticle interactions are easily deduced from dramatic changes in the scattering profiles of interacting duplexes.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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