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Phys Rev Lett. 2006 Mar 24;96(11):118301. Epub 2006 Mar 22.

Condensation transition in DNA-polyaminoamide dendrimer fibers studied using optical tweezers.

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  • 1Department of Physics and Molecular & Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.


When mixed together, DNA and polyaminoamide dendrimers form fibers that condense into a compact structure. We use optical tweezers to pull condensed fibers and investigate the decondensation transition by measuring force-extension curves (FECs). A characteristic force plateau (around 10 pN) and hysteresis between the pulling and relaxation cycles are observed for different dendrimer sizes, indicating the existence of a first-order transition between two phases (condensed and extended) of the fiber. Upon salt variation FECs change noticeably confirming that electrostatic forces drive the condensation transition. We propose a simple model for the decondensing transition that qualitatively reproduces the FECs and which is confirmed by atomic force microscopy images.

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