We have determined the adsorption of RNA components (adenine, cytosine, uracil, ribose and phosphate) by Mg2+-exchanged montmorillonite. The isotherms for adenine, cytosine and uracil were of the C-type, the amount adsorbed increasing linearly with the equilibrium solute concentration. All three nucleic acid bases were apparently adsorbed by coordination to Mg2+ ions through a water bridge. Very little ribose was adsorbed by Mg-exchanged montmorillonite. The isotherm for phosphate was of the L-type. The plateau value of about 0.012 mmol g–1 indicated that phosphate adsorbed on the edge surface of montmorillonite. At comparable solute concentrations, adsorption decreased in the order adenine > cytosine > uracil. This observation reflects differences in basicity, size, and aqueous solubility among the three compounds.

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