Influence of the degree of oligomerization of surfactants on the DNA/surfactant interaction
The interaction between calf thymus DNA, ctDNA, and a series of oligomeric surfactants derived from N-benzyl-N,N-dimethyl-N-(1-dodecyl)ammonium chloride is investigated. The influence of the surfactants' degree of oligomerization (2, 3 and 4) on the ctDNA/surfactant interaction is studied, as well as the effect of the structure of the spacer group linking the individual surfactant fragments. In particular, the effect of the distance between the positive charges and the hydrophobic chains within the oligomers on these interactions was examined, by using the three positional isomers (i.e., ortho−, meta−, and para−) with the rigid xylidene moiety as spacer. Results show that the dimeric ("gemini") surfactants are much more efficient in the inversion of the nucleic acid charge than the single-chained (monomeric) surfactant. Whereas the ortho − isomer causes a partial condensation, the meta − and para − isomers can completely condense ctDNA. The meta − and para − isomers of the trimeric surfactants can also completely condense the polynucleotide. In contrast, the tetrameric surfactant investigated does not change the morphology of the nucleic acid from an elongated coil into a compacted form, in spite of effectively inverting the nucleic acid's charge in their complex. Accordingly, the capacity for ctDNA compaction of oligomeric surfactants is not simply correlated to their degree of oligomerization, but depends on a complex balance of the number and relative distance of cationic charges and/or hydrophobic tails in the surfactants for effectively interacting with the nucleic acid to form the appropriate complex. This information will help to design more effective cationic surfactants as non-viral vectors for gene therapy.