It is well established that the structure of plasmid DNA is a strong function of solution ionic conditions due to changes in intramolecular electrostatic interactions between the charged phosphate groups along the DNA backbone. Multivalent cations like spermine and spermidine play a critical role in compacting and controlling the structure of supercoiled DNA in living cells. The objective of this work was to investigate the effects of these polyamines on the ultrafiltration of plasmid DNA, including possible opportunities to use these polycations to enhance the purification of specific plasmid isoforms. Data were obtained using a wide range of spermine and spermidine concentrations to evaluate DNA transmission through Biomax polyethersulfone ultrafiltration membranes. Spermine has a very strong effect on DNA transmission, with the sieving coefficient of the supercoiled plasmid decreasing by more than an order of magnitude upon addition of only 15 μM spermine. A comparable change in DNA transmission required >300 μM of the trivalent spermidine. The polyamines were able to significantly increase the selectivity for the separation of DNA from a model protein, but they were unable to provide a significant increase in the selectivity for separating DNA isoforms under the conditions examined in this study. The results do demonstrate that both spermine and spermidine can be used to control the extent of DNA transmission/purification during ultrafiltration.
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