Spontaneous Condensation of RNA into Nanoring and Globular Structures Article uri icon


  • The effect of polyvalent cations, like spermine, on the condensation of DNA into very well-defined toroidal shapes has been well studied and understood. A great effort has been made to obtain similar condensed structures from RNA molecules, but so far, it has been elusive. In this work, we show that single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) molecules can easily be condensed into nanoring and globular structures on a mica surface, where each nanoring structure is formed mostly by a single RNA molecule. The condensation occurs in a concentration range of different cations, from monovalent to trivalent, but at a higher concentration, globular structures appear. RNA nanoring structures were observed on mica surfaces by atomic force microscopy (AFM). The samples were observed in tapping mode and were prepared by drop evaporation of a solution of RNA in the presence of one type of the different cations used. As far as we know, this is the first time that nanorings or any other well-defined condensed RNA structures have been reported in the presence of simple salts. The RNA nanoring formation can be understood by an energy competition between the hydrogen bonding forming hairpin stems weakened by the salts and the hairpin loops. This result may have an important biological relevance since it has been proposed that RNA is the oldest genome-coding molecule, and the formation of these structures could have given it stability against degradation in primeval times. Even more, the nanoring structures could have the potential to be used as biosensors and functionalized nanodevices. © 2022 The Authors. Published by American Chemical Society.

publication date

  • 2021-01-01