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Creators/Authors contains: "Nguyen, Hung T."

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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 1, 2023
  2. RNA molecules cannot fold in the absence of counterions. Experiments are typically performed in the presence of monovalent and divalent cations. How to treat the impact of a solution containing a mixture of both ion types on RNA folding has remained a challenging problem for decades. By exploiting the large concentration difference between divalent and monovalent ions used in experiments, we develop a theory based on the reference interaction site model (RISM), which allows us to treat divalent cations explicitly while keeping the implicit screening effect due to monovalent ions. Our theory captures both the inner shell and outer shell coordination of divalent cations to phosphate groups, which we demonstrate is crucial for an accurate calculation of RNA folding thermodynamics. The RISM theory for ion–phosphate interactions when combined with simulations based on a transferable coarse-grained model allows us to predict accurately the folding of several RNA molecules in a mixture containing monovalent and divalent ions. The calculated folding free energies and ion-preferential coefficients for RNA molecules (pseudoknots, a fragment of the rRNA, and the aptamer domain of the adenine riboswitch) are in excellent agreement with experiments over a wide range of monovalent and divalent ion concentrations. Because the theory ismore »general, it can be readily used to investigate ion and sequence effects on DNA properties.« less