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Biophys J. 2005 Apr;88(4):2737-44. Epub 2005 Jan 14.

Single-molecule measurements of the persistence length of double-stranded RNA.

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Kavli Institute of Nanoscience, Faculty of Applied Sciences, Delft University of Technology, 2628 CJ Delft, The Netherlands.


Over the past few years, it has become increasingly apparent that double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) plays a far greater role in the life cycle of a cell than previously expected. Numerous proteins, including helicases, polymerases, and nucleases interact specifically with the double helix of dsRNA. To understand the detailed nature of these dsRNA-protein interactions, the (bio)chemical, electrostatic, and mechanical properties of dsRNA need to be fully characterized. We present measurements of the persistence length of dsRNA using two different single-molecule techniques: magnetic tweezers and atomic force microscopy. We deduce a mean persistence length for long dsRNA molecules of 63.8 +/- 0.7 nm from force-extension measurements with the magnetic tweezers. We present atomic force microscopy images of dsRNA and demonstrate a new method for analyzing these, which yields an independent, yet consistent value of 62 +/- 2 nm for the persistence length. The introduction of these single-molecule techniques for dsRNA analysis opens the way for real-time, quantitative analysis of dsRNA-protein interactions.

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