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The Effect of Common Cations on DNA Degradation

Tatiana Larina (1), Muxin Wang (2), Galina Aglyamova (3)
(1) Westwood High School, Austin, Texas;
(2) Klein High School, Houston, Texas;
(3) Department of Integrative Biology, University of Texas at Austin

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The process of DNA degradation is important to many scientific studies. Heat treatment is the standard procedure used to degrade genetic material by heating DNA-containing media past the DNA melting temperature, but certain chemical alternatives have been explored. More specifically, the presence of cations, such as Mg²⁺, has been linked to increased stability of DNA molecules subjected to high temperatures. However, the possible effects of other ions have not been extensively studied; perhaps cations similar to magnesium may offer more versatile effects. This study examines the effects that NH₄⁺, Ni²⁺, and Li⁺ have on the heat degradation and melting temperature of DNA. Magnesium chloride, magnesium sulfate, ammonium sulfate, nickel chloride, and lithium chloride solutions of different concentrations were mixed with DNA samples; the resulting mixture was heated and subsequently analyzed using gel electrophoresis. Treatment with NH₄⁺ did not yield effects that significantly differed from Mg²⁺, while Li⁺ proved effective at preserving DNA even at high temperatures. Treatment with Ni²⁺ resulted in marked degradation of DNA. These results show that magnesium, ammonium, and especially lithium ions can be used for the preservation of DNA. The specific effects of Li⁺ and Ni²⁺ on DNA are promising subjects for future research.

Received: October 10, 2015; Accepted: September 14, 2016; Published: November 6, 2016

Copyright: © 2016 Larina, Wang, and Aglyamova. All JEI articles are distributed under the attribution non-commercial, no derivative license ( This means that anyone is free to share, copy and distribute an unaltered article for non-commercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited.

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