Molecular dynamics simulations of DNA-polycation complex formation


Complexes formed from DNA and polycations are of interest because of their potential use in gene therapy; however, there remains a lack of understanding of the structure and formation of DNA-polycation complexes at atomic scale. In this work, molecular dynamics simulations of the DNA duplex d(CGCGAATTCGCG) in the presence of polycation chains are carried out to shed light on the specific atomic interaction that result in complex formation. The structures of complexes formed from DNA with polyethylenimine, which is considered one of the most promising DNA vector candidates, and a second polycation, poly-L-lysine, are compared. After an initial separation of ∼50 Å , the DNA and polycation come together and form a stable complex within 10 ns. The DNA does not undergo any major structural changes on complexation and remains in the B-form. In the formed complex, the charged amine groups of the polycation mainly interact with DNA phosphate groups, with polycation intrusion into the major and minor grooves dependent on the identity and charge state of the polycation. The ability of the polycation to effectively neutralize the charge of the DNA phosphate groups and the resulting influence on the DNA helix interaction are discussed. © 2009 by the Biophysical Society.

Publication Title

Biophysical Journal