Electrostatics of Strongly Charged Biological Polymers: Ion-Mediated Interactions and Self-Organization in Nucleic Acids and Proteins
Charges on biological polymers in physiologically relevant solution conditions are strongly screened by water and salt solutions containing counter-ions. However, the entropy of these counterions can result in surprisingly strong interactions between charged objects in water despite short screening lengths, via coupling between osmotic and electrostatic interactions. Widespread work in theory, experiment, and computation has been carried out to gain a fundamental understanding of the rich, yet sometimes counterintuitive, behavior of these polyelectrolyte systems. Examples of polyelectrolyte association in biology include DNA packaging and RNA folding, as well as aggregation and self-organization phenomena in different disease states.