Role of hydrophobic effect and surface charge in surfactant-DNA association

Indian J Biochem Biophys. 1997 Feb-Apr;34(1-2):11-7.


Ethidium bromide is one of the best known DNA intercalator. Upon intercalation inside DNA, the fluorescence due to ethidium bromide gets enhanced by many orders of magnitude. In this paper, we employed ethidium bromide as a probe for studying surfactant-DNA complexation using fluorescence spectroscopy and agarose gel electrophoresis. Surfactants of different charge types and chain lengths were used and the results were compared with that of the related small organic cations or salts under comparable conditions. The cationic surfactants induced destabilization of the ethidium bromide-DNA complex at concentrations in orders of magnitude lower than that of the small organic cations or salts. In contrast however, the anionic surfactants failed to promote any such destabilization of probe-DNA complex. DNA loses its ethidium bromide stainability in the presence of high concentration of cationic surfactant aggregates as revealed from agarose gel electrophoresis experiments. Inclusion of surfactants and other additives into the DNA generally enhanced the DNA double-strand to single strand transition melting temperatures by a few degrees, in a concentration-dependent manner and at high surfactant concentration melting profiles got broadened.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • Electrochemistry
  • Ethidium / chemistry
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Molecular Probes / chemistry
  • Nucleic Acid Denaturation
  • Plasmids / chemistry
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • Surface-Active Agents / chemistry*


  • Molecular Probes
  • Surface-Active Agents
  • DNA
  • Ethidium