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Soft Matter. 2011 Jan 1;7(18):8005-8012. Epub 2011 Jun 2.

Direct observation of single flexible polymers using single stranded DNA().

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Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, 61801, USA.


Over the last 15 years, double stranded DNA (dsDNA) has been used as a model polymeric system for nearly all single polymer dynamics studies. However, dsDNA is a semiflexible polymer with markedly different molecular properties compared to flexible chains, including synthetic organic polymers. In this work, we report a new system for single polymer studies of flexible chains based on single stranded DNA (ssDNA). We developed a method to synthesize ssDNA for fluorescence microscopy based on rolling circle replication, which generates long strands (>65 kb) of ssDNA containing "designer" sequences, thereby preventing intramolecular base pair interactions. Polymers are synthesized to contain amine-modified bases randomly distributed along the backbone, which enables uniform labelling of polymer chains with a fluorescent dye to facilitate fluorescence microscopy and imaging. Using this approach, we synthesized ssDNA chains with long contour lengths (>30 μm) and relatively low dye loading ratios (~1 dye per 100 bases). In addition, we used epifluorescence microscopy to image single ssDNA polymer molecules stretching in flow in a microfluidic device. Overall, we anticipate that ssDNA will serve as a useful model system to probe the dynamics of polymeric materials at the molecular level.

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