Publication I May 19, 2010
Conformations of End-Tethered DNA Molecules on Gold Surfaces: Influences of Applied Electric Potential, Electrolyte Screening, and Temperature
We describe the behavior of 72mer oligonucleotides that are end-tethered to gold surfaces under the influence of applied electric fields. The DNA extension is measured by fluorescence energy transfer as a function of the DNA hybridization state (single- and double-stranded), the concentration of monovalent salt in solution (100 μM to 1 M NaCl), the applied electrode potential (−0.6 to +0.1 V vs Pt), and the temperature (1 to 50 °C). At high ionic strength, the DNA conformations are very robust and independent of the applied electrode potential and temperature variations. In solutions of medium ionic strength, the DNA conformation can be manipulated efficiently by applying bias potentials to the Au electrodes. The molecules are repelled at negative potentials and attracted to the surface at positive potentials. The conformation transition occurs abruptly when the electrode bias is swept by merely 0.1 V across the transition potential, which shifts negatively when the salinity is decreased. The behavior can be understood by electrostatic screening arguments and, in the case of single-stranded DNA, when secondary structures are taken into account. At low ionic strength, the experiments reveal an intriguing temperature-dependent stiffening of single-stranded DNA, which can be rationalized by combining counterion condensation theory with the Odjik−Skolnick−Fixman description of the electrostatic persistence length and the unstacking of bases at elevated temperatures.