Chemical studies have been carried out on the interaction of DNA with uranyl salts. The effect of variations in pH, salt concentration, and structural integrity of the DNA on the stoichiometry of the salt-substrate complex have been investigated. At pH 3.5 DNA interacts with uranyl ions in low concentration yielding a substrate metal ion complex with a UO2++/P mole ratio of about ½ and having a large association constant. At low pH's (about 2.3) the mole ratio decreases to about ⅓. Destruction of the structural integrity of the DNA by heating in HCHO solutions leads to a similar drop in the amount of metal ion bound. Raising the pH above 3.5 leads to an apparent increase in binding as does increasing the concentration of the salt solution. This additional binding has a lower association constant. Under similar conditions DNA binds about seven times more uranyl ion than bovine serum albumin, indicating useful selectivity in staining for electron microscopy.

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