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Biophys J. 2010 May 19;98(10):2265-72. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2010.02.008.

The Effect of dye-dye interactions on the spatial resolution of single-molecule FRET measurements in nucleic acids.

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Department of Physics, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


We study the effect of dye-dye interactions in labeled double-stranded DNA molecules on the Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) efficiency at the single-molecule level. An extensive analysis of internally labeled double-stranded DNA molecules in bulk and at the single-molecule level reveals that donor-acceptor absolute distances can be reliably extracted down to approximately 3-nm separation, provided that dye-dye quenching is accounted for. At these short separations, we find significant long-lived fluorescence fluctuations among discrete levels originating from the simultaneous and synchronous quenching of both dyes. By comparing four different donor-acceptor dye pairs (TMR-ATTO647N, Cy3-ATTO647N, TMR-Cy5, and Cy3-Cy5), we find that this phenomenon depends on the nature of the dye pair used, with the cyanine pair Cy3-Cy5 showing the least amount of fluctuations. The significance of these results is twofold: First, they illustrate that when dye-dye quenching is accounted for, single-molecule FRET can be used to accurately measure inter-dye distances, even at short separations. Second, these results are useful when deciding which dye pairs to use for nucleic acids analyses using FRET.

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