Analytical Debye-Huckel model for electrostatic potentials around dissolved DNA

  • Wagner K
  • Keyes E
  • Kephart T
 et al. 
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We present an analytical, Green-function-based model for the electric potential of DNA in solution, treating the surrounding solvent with the Debye-Huckel approximation. The partial charge of each atom is accounted for by modeling DNA as linear distributions of atoms on concentric cylindrical surfaces. The condensed ions of the solvent are treated with the Debye- Huckel approximation. The resultant leading term of the potential is that of a continuous shielded line charge, and the higher order terms account for the helical structure. Within several angstroms of the surface there is sufficient information in the electric potential to distinguish features and symmetries of DNA. Plots of the potential and equipotential surfaces, dominated by the phosphate charges, reflect the structural differences between the A, B, and Z conformations and, to a smaller extent, the difference between base sequences. As the distances from the helices increase, the magnitudes of the potentials decrease. However, the bases and sugars account for a larger fraction of the double helix potential with increasing distance. We have found that when the solvent is treated with the Debye-Huckel approximation, the potential decays more rapidly in every direction from the surface than it did in the concentric dielectric cylinder approximation.

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