Collect. Czech. Chem. Commun. 2004, 69, 715-747

Mercury Electrodes in Nucleic Acid Electrochemistry: Sensitive Analytical Tools and Probes of DNA Structure. A Review

Miroslav Fojta

Laboratory of Biophysical Chemistry and Molecular Oncology, Institute of Biophysics, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Královopolská 135, 612 65 Brno, Czech Republic


This review is devoted to applications of mercury electrodes in the electrochemical analysis of nucleic acids and in studies of DNA structure and interactions. At the mercury electrodes, nucleic acids yield faradaic signals due to redox processes involving adenine, cytosine and guanine residues, and tensammetric signals due to adsorption/desorption of polynucleotide chains at the electrode surface. Some of these signals are highly sensitive to DNA structure, providing information about conformation changes of the DNA double helix, formation of DNA strand breaks as well as covalent or non-covalent DNA interactions with small molecules (including genotoxic agents, drugs, etc.). Measurements at mercury electrodes allow for determination of small quantities of unmodified or electrochemically labeled nucleic acids. DNA-modified mercury electrodes have been used as biodetectors for DNA damaging agents or as detection electrodes in DNA hybridization assays. Mercury film and solid amalgam electrodes possess similar features in the nucleic acid analysis to mercury drop electrodes. On the contrary, intrinsic (label-free) DNA electrochemical responses at other (non-mercury) solid electrodes cannot provide information about small changes of the DNA structure. A review with 188 references.

Keywords: Mercury electrodes; Nucleic acids; DNA structure; DNA interactions; DNA damage; DNA hybridization; Solid amalgam electrodes; Mercury film electrodes; Electrochemistry; Electrochemical sensors.

References: 188 live references.