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J Am Chem Soc. 2008 Jul 2;130(26):8188-94. doi: 10.1021/ja0774055. Epub 2008 Jun 4.

DNA hybridization-induced reorientation of liquid crystal anchoring at the nematic liquid crystal/aqueous interface.

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  • 1University of Colorado, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Boulder, Colorado 80309-0424, USA.


Interactions between DNA and an adsorbed cationic surfactant at the nematic liquid crystal (LC)/aqueous interface were investigated using polarized and fluorescence microscopy. The adsorption of octadecyltrimethylammonium bromide (OTAB) surfactant to the LC/aqueous interface resulted in homeotropic (untilted) LC alignment. Subsequent adsorption of single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) to the surfactant-laden interface modified the interfacial structure, resulting in a reorientation of the LC from homeotropic alignment to an intermediate tilt angle. Exposure of the ssDNA/OTAB interfacial complex to its ssDNA complement induced a second change in the interfacial structure characterized by the nucleation, growth, and coalescence of lateral regions that induced homeotropic LC alignment. Fluorescence microscopy showed explicitly that the complement was colocalized in the same regions as the homeotropic domains. Exposure to noncomplementary ssDNA caused no such response, suggesting that the homeotropic regions were due to DNA hybridization. This hybridization occurred in the vicinity of the interface despite the fact that the conditions in bulk solution were such that hybridization did not occur (high stringency), suggesting that the presence of the cationic surfactant neutralized electrostatic repulsion and allowed for hydrogen bonding between DNA complements. This system has potential for label-less and portable DNA detection. Indeed, LC response to ssDNA target was detected with a lower limit of approximately 50 fmol of complement and was sufficiently selective to differentiate a one-base-pair mismatch in a 16-mer target.

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