Salt dependence of the radius of gyration and flexibility of single-stranded DNA in solution probed by small-angle x-ray scattering
Short single-stranded nucleic acids are ubiquitous in biological processes; understanding their physical properties provides insights to nucleic acid folding and dynamics. We used small-angle x-ray scattering to study 8–100 residue homopolymeric single-stranded DNAs in solution, without external forces or labeling probes. Poly-T's structural ensemble changes with increasing ionic strength in a manner consistent with a polyelectrolyte persistence length theory that accounts for molecular flexibility. For any number of residues, poly-A is consistently more elongated than poly-T, likely due to the tendency of A residues to form stronger base-stacking interactions than T residues.