What are the effects of an alkaline pH on the structure of DNA?

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What are the effects of an alkaline pH on the structure of DNA?
Alkaline pH splits DNA into two strands. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

“DNA” stands for “deoxyribonucleic acid.” It exists in the nuclei of cells and forms a twisted ladder structure. DNA contains all the details of each cells formation and function and so is like a construction plan for the human body, and all living things. Like any organic structure. DNA can be affected by chemicals that are applied to it. An alteration in the pH balance of the structure has effects.

Alkaline pH

The term “pH” means “potential of hydrogen.” Alkalinity is one of the two states measured by pH, the other being “acidity.” Alkalis derive from mineral salts. Alkalis derive from metals or ammonia and they neutralise acids.

Alkalis and Acids

If alkilis neutralise acids, then that could pose a threat to DNA, because the “A” in DNA stands for “acid.” Alkalis have higher hydrogen ions than acids. When introduced together, the Alkali draws off the hydrogen ions in the acid and produces water. The remaining structure become a salt.


The alteration in DNA structure caused by application of alkaline solution is called “denaturation.” The DNA is said to be “denatured.” This means that the ladder structure splits, creating two single strands. The effect occurs through a break in the middle of each rung and is caused by the loss of hydrogen that binds these two halves together. The rate at which the two sides of the DNA strand disconnect depends on the pH of the Alkaline solution. A higher pH causes faster denaturation.


Denaturation caused by applying alkaline solution to DNA can be reversed in a process called “renaturation.” The purpose of renaturation is to see whether single strands from one organism can combine with single strands from another organism. This displays that two species are related, through the compatibility of their DNA. It also helps in DNA sequencing analysis by examining the rate and order of renaturing.

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