Albany 2013: Book of Abstracts

category image Albany 2013
Conversation 18
June 11-15 2013
©Adenine Press (2012)

Comparison of Monovalent and Divalent Ion Distributions around a DNA Duplex with Molecular Dynamic Simulation and Poisson-Boltzmann Approach

Ion interactions with nucleic acids (both DNA and RNA) are an important and evolving field of investigation. Positively charged cations may interact with highly negatively charged nucleic acids via simple electrostatic interactions to help screen the electrostatic repulsion along the nucleic acids and assist their folding and/or compaction. Cations may also bind at specific sites and become integral parts of the structures, possibly playing important enzymatic roles. Two popular methods for computationally exploring a nucleic acid’s ion atmosphere are atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and the Poisson-Boltzmann (PB) equation. In general, monovalent ion results obtained from MD simulations and the PB equation agree well with experiment. However, Bai et al. (Bai, 2007) observed discrepancies between experiment and the PB equation while examining the competitive binding of monovalent and divalent ions, with more significant discrepancies for divalent ions. The goal of this project was to thoroughly investigate monovalent (Na+) and divalent (Mg 2+ ) ion distributions formed around a DNA duplex with MD simulations and the PB equation. We simulated three different cation concentrations, and matched the equilibrated bulk ion concentration for our theoretical calculations with the PB equation. Based on previous work, our Mg2+ ions were fully solvated, the expected state of Mg 2+ ions when interacting with a duplex, when the production simulations began and remained throughout the simulations (Kirmizialtin, 2010 and Robbins, 2012). Na+ ion distributions and number of Na+ ions within 10 Å of the DNA obtained from our two methods agreed well. However, results differed for Mg 2+ ions, with a lower number of ions within the cut-off distance obtained from the PB equation when compared to MD simulations. The Mg 2+ ion distributions around the DNA obtained via the two methods also differed. Based on our results, we conclude that the PB equation will systematically under estimate Mg 2+ ions bound to DNA, and much of this deviation is attributed to dielectric saturation associated with high valency ions.

This research has been supported by ORAU/ORNL High Performance Computing Award and NSF Tennessee EPSCOR funding (grant EPS-1004083).


    Y. Bai, M. Greenfield (2007). Quantitative and comprehensive decomposition of the ion atmosphere around nucleic acids. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 129, 14981-14988.

    S. Kirmizialtin, R. Elber (2010). Computational Exploration of Mobile Ion Distributions around RNA Duplex. J. Phys. Chem. B 114, 8207-8220.

    T. J. Robbins, Y. Wang (2012). Effect of initial ion positions on the interactions of monovalent and divalent ions with a DNA duplex as revealed with atomistic molecular dynamics simulations. J. Biomol. Struct. Dyn. 2012 Nov 16. Ahead of Print. doi: 10.1080/07391102.2012.732344

Timothy J. Robbins
Yongmei Wang

Department of Chemistry
University of Memphis
Memphis, TN 38152

Ph: (901) 678-2621
Fax: (901) 678-3447