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Portrait of Tommy Nylander. Photo: Kennet Ruona

Tommy Nylander


Portrait of Tommy Nylander. Photo: Kennet Ruona

RNA and DNA Association to Zwitterionic and Charged Monolayers at the Air-Liquid Interface


  • Agnes Michanek
  • Marianna Yanez
  • Hanna Wacklin
  • Arwel Hughes
  • Tommy Nylander
  • Emma Sparr

Summary, in English

The objective of this work is to establish under which conditions short RNA molecules (similar to miRNA) associate with zwitterionic phospholipids and how this differs from the association with cationic surfactants. We study how the base pairing (i.e., single stranded versus double stranded nucleic acids) and the length of the nucleic acid and the charge of the lipid/surfactant monolayer affect the association behavior. For this purpose, we study the adsorption of nucleic acids to monolayers composed of dipalmitoyl phosphatidylcholine (DPPC) or dioctadecyl-dimethyl-ammoniumbromide (DODAB) using the surface film balance, neutron reflectometry, and fluorescence microscopy. The monolayer studies with the surface film balance suggested that short single-stranded ssRNA associates with liquid expanded zwitterionic phospholipid monolayers, whereas less or no association is detected for double-stranded dsRNA and dsDNA In order to quantify the interaction and to determine the location of the nucleic acid in the lipid/surfactant monolayer we performed neutron reflectometry measurements. It was shown that ssRNA adsorbs to and penetrates the liquid expanded monolayers, whereas there is no penetration of nucleic acids into the liquid condensed monolayer. No adsorption was detected for dsDNA to zwitterionic monolayers. On the basis of these results, we propose that the association is driven by the hydrophobic interactions between the exposed hydrophobic bases of the ssRNA and the hydrocarbon chains of the phospholipids. The addition of ssRNA also influences domain formation in the DPPC monolayer, leading to fractal-like interconnected domains. The experimental results are discussed in terms of the implication for biological processes and new leads for applications in medicine and biotechnology.


  • Physical Chemistry
  • MultiPark: Multidisciplinary research focused on Parkinson´s disease

Publishing year












Document type

Journal article


The American Chemical Society (ACS)


  • Physical Chemistry




  • ISSN: 0743-7463