Factors Affecting the Association of Single- and Double-Stranded RNAs with Montmorillonite Nanoclays
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Montmorillonite (MMT) nanoclays exist as single and stacked sheet-like structures with large surface areas that can form stable associations with many naturally occurring biomolecules, including nucleic acids. They have been utilized successfully as vehicles for delivery of both drugs and genes into cells. Most previous studies have focused on interactions of MMT with DNA. In the current study, we have investigated the binding of small RNAs similar to those used for RNA interference (RNAi) therapy to two major forms of the clay, Na-MMT and Ca-MMT. Association of both forms of MMT with several double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs), including 25mers, 54mers and cloverleaf-shaped transfer RNAs, was weak and increased only slightly after addition of Mg2+ ions to the binding reactions. By contrast, ssRNA 25mers and 54mers bound poorly to Na-MMT but interacted strongly with Ca-MMT. The weak binding of ssRNAs to Na-MMT could be strongly enhanced by addition of Mg2+ ions. The strength of MMT-ssRNA interactions was also examined using inorganic anion competition and displacement assays, as well as electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSAs). The aggregate results point to a cation-bridging mechanism for binding of ssRNAs, but not dsRNAs, in the presence of divalent metal cations.