Regular Article

The European Physical Journal E

, 34:83

First online:

Supramolecular polymorphism of DNA in non-cationic Lα lipid phases

  • E. R. Teixeira da SilvaAffiliated withCentre de recherche Paul-Pascal-CNRS, Université de Bordeaux
  • , E. Andreoli de OliveiraAffiliated withInstituto de Física-GFCx, Universidade de São Paulo
  • , A. FévrierAffiliated withCentre de recherche Paul-Pascal-CNRS, Université de Bordeaux
  • , F. NalletAffiliated withCentre de recherche Paul-Pascal-CNRS, Université de Bordeaux
  • , L. NavaillesAffiliated withCentre de recherche Paul-Pascal-CNRS, Université de Bordeaux Email author 

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The structure of a complex between hydrated DNA and a non-cationic lipid is studied, including its phase diagram. The complex is spontaneously formed by adding DNA fragments (ca. 150 base pairs in length) to non-cationic lipids and water. The self-assembly process often leads to highly ordered structures. The structures were studied by combining X-ray scattering, fluorescence and polarized microscopy, as well as freeze-fracture experiments with transmission electron microscopy. We observe a significant increase of the smectic order as DNA is incorporated into the water layers of the lamellar host phase, and stabilization of single phase domains for large amounts of DNA. The effect of confinement on DNA ordering is investigated by varying the water content, following three dilution lines. A rich polymorphism is found, ranging from weakly correlated DNA-DNA in-plane organizations to highly ordered structures, where transmembrane correlations lead to the formation of columnar rectangular and columnar hexagonal superlattices of nucleotides embedded between lipid lamellae. From these observations, we suggest that addition of DNA to the lamellar phase significantly restricts membrane fluctuations above a certain concentration and helps the formation of the lipoplex. The alteration of membrane steric interactions, together with the appearance of interfacial interactions between membranes and DNA molecules may be a relevant mechanism for the emergence of highly ordered structures in the concentrated regime.