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J Chem Phys. 2009 Jun 7;130(21):215105. doi: 10.1063/1.3142699.

The persistence length of double stranded DNA determined using dark field tethered particle motion.

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Quantitative Imaging Group, Faculty of Applied Sciences, Delft University of Technology, Lorentzweg 1, 2628 CJ Delft, The Netherlands.


The wormlike chain model describes the micromechanics of semiflexible polymers by introducing the persistence length. We propose a method of measuring the persistence length of DNA in a controllable near-native environment. Using a dark field microscope, the projected positions of a gold nanoparticle undergoing constrained Brownian motion are captured. The nanoparticle is tethered to a substrate using a single double stranded DNA (dsDNA) molecule and immersed in buffer. No force is exerted on the DNA. We carried out Monte Carlo simulations of the experiment, which give insight into the micromechanics of the DNA and can be used to interpret the motion of the nanoparticle. Our simulations and experiments demonstrate that, unlike other similar experiments, the use of nanometer instead of micrometer sized particles causes particle-substrate and particle-DNA interactions to be of negligible effect on the position distribution of the particle. We also show that the persistence length of the tethering DNA can be estimated with a statistical error of 2 nm, by comparing the statistics of the projected position distribution of the nanoparticle to the Monte Carlo simulations. The persistence lengths of 45 single molecules of four different lengths of dsDNA were measured under the same environmental conditions at high salt concentration. The persistence lengths we found had a mean value of 35 nm (standard error of 2.8 nm), which compares well to previously found values using similar salt concentrations. Our method can be used to directly study the effect of the environmental conditions (e.g., buffer and temperature) on the persistence length.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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