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Single-Molecule Fluorescence Imaging of Interfacial DNA Hybridization Kinetics at Selective Capture Surfaces

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journal contribution
posted on 19.01.2016 by Eric M. Peterson, Michael W. Manhart, Joel M. Harris
Accurate knowledge of the kinetics of complementary oligonucleotide hybridization is integral to the design and understanding of DNA-based biosensors. In this work, single-molecule fluorescence imaging is applied to measuring rates of hybridization between fluorescently labeled target ssDNA and unlabeled probe ssDNA immobilized on glass surfaces. In the absence of probe site labeling, the capture surface must be highly selective to avoid the influence of nonspecific adsorption on the interpretation of single-molecule imaging results. This is accomplished by increasing the probe molecule site densities by a factor of ∼100 compared to optically resolvable sites so that nonspecific interactions compete with a much greater number of capture sites and by immobilizing sulfonate groups to passivate the surface between probe strands. The resulting substrates exhibit very low nonspecific adsorption, and the selectivity for binding a complementary target sequence exceeds that of a scrambled sequence by nearly 3 orders of magnitude. The population of immobilized DNA probe sites is quantified by counting individual DNA duplexes at low target concentrations, and those results are used to calibrate fluorescence intensities on the same sample at much higher target concentrations to measure a full binding isotherm. Dissociation rates are determined from interfacial residence times of individual DNA duplexes. Equilibrium and rate constants of hybridization, Ka = 38 (±1) μM–1, kon = 1.64 (±0.06) × 106 M–1 s–1, and koff = 4.3 (±0.1) × 10–2 s–1, were found not to change with surface density of immobilized probe DNA, indicating that hybridization events at neighboring probe sites are independent. To test the influence of probe-strand immobilization on hybridization, the kinetics of the probe target reaction at the surface were compared with the same reaction in free solution, and the equilibrium constants and dissociation and association rates were found to be nearly equivalent. The selectivity of these capture surfaces should facilitate sensitive investigations of DNA hybridization at the limit of counting molecules. Because the immobilized probe DNA on these surfaces is unlabeled, photobleaching of a probe label is not an issue, allowing capture substrates to be used for long periods of time or even reused in multiple experiments.