American Chemical Society
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A Single-Molecule View of Conformational Switching of DNA Tethered to a Gold Electrode

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journal contribution
posted on 2016-02-20, 18:59 authored by Eric A. Josephs, Tao Ye
Surfaces that can actively regulate binding affinities or catalytic properties in response to external stimuli are a powerful means to probe and control the dynamic interactions between the cell and its microenvironment. Active surfaces also enable novel functionalities in biosensors and biomolecular separation technologies. Although electrical stimuli are often appealing due to their speed and localization, the operation of these electrically activated surfaces has mostly been characterized with techniques averaging over many molecules. Without a molecular-scale understanding of how biomolecules respond to electric fields, achieving the ultimate detection sensitivity or localized biological perturbation with the ultimate resolution would be difficult. Using electrochemical atomic force microscopy, we are able to follow the conformational changes of individual, short DNA molecules tethered to a gold electrode in response to an applied potential. Our study reveals conformations and dynamics that are difficult to infer from ensemble measurements: defects in the self-assembled monolayer (SAM) significantly perturb conformations and adsorption/desorption kinetics of surface-tethered DNA; on the other hand, the SAM may be actively molded by the DNA at different potentials. These results underscore the importance of characterizing the systems at the relevant length scale in the development of electrically switchable biofunctional surfaces.