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Connecting Rare DNA Conformations and Surface Dynamics Using Single-Molecule Resonance Energy Transfer

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journal contribution
posted on 22.02.2016, 10:48 by Mark Kastantin, Daniel K. Schwartz
A mechanistic understanding of single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) behavior in the near-surface environment is critical to advancing DNA-directed self-assembled nanomaterials. A new approach is described that uses total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy to measure resonance energy transfer at the single-molecule level, providing a mechanistic understanding of the connection between molecular conformation and interfacial dynamics near amine-modified surfaces. Large numbers (>105) of ssDNA trajectories were observed, permitting dynamic correlation of molecular conformation with desorption and surface mobility. On the basis of dynamic behavior, molecules could be designated as members of the more common coiled population or a rare, weakly bound conformation. Molecules in the coiled state generally exhibited slow diffusion and conformational fluctuations that decreased with increasing average end-to-end distance. Lattice simulations of adsorbed self-avoiding polymers successfully predicted these trends. In contrast, the weakly bound conformation, observed in about 5% of molecules, had a large end-to-end distance but demonstrated conformational fluctuations that were much higher than predicted by simulations for adsorbed flexible chains. This conformation correlated positively with desorption events and led to fast diffusion, indicating weak surface associations. Understanding the role of the weakly bound conformation in DNA hybridization, and how solution conditions and surface properties may favor it, could lead to improved self-assembled nanomaterials.