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Biophys J. Apr 2001; 80(4): 1932–1939.
PMCID: PMC1301382

Entropy and heat capacity of DNA melting from temperature dependence of single molecule stretching.


When a single molecule of double-stranded DNA is stretched beyond its B-form contour length, the measured force shows a highly cooperative overstretching transition. We have measured the force at which this transition occurs as a function of temperature. To do this, single molecules of DNA were captured between two polystyrene beads in an optical tweezers apparatus. As the temperature of the solution surrounding a captured molecule was increased from 11 degrees C to 52 degrees C in 500 mM NaCl, the overstretching transition force decreased from 69 pN to 50 pN. This reduction is attributed to a decrease in the stability of the DNA double helix with increasing temperature. These results quantitatively agree with a model that asserts that DNA melting occurs during the overstretching transition. With this model, the data may be analyzed to obtain the change in the melting entropy DeltaS of DNA with temperature. The observed nonlinear temperature dependence of DeltaS is a result of the positive change in heat capacity of DNA upon melting, which we determine from our stretching measurements to be DeltaC(p) = 60 +/- 10 cal/mol K bp, in agreement with calorimetric measurements.

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Selected References

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