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Saturday, 29 April, 2006

Weakly Bound Water Molecules Shorten Single-Stranded DNA

Shuxun Cui, Christian Albrecht, Ferdinand K├╝hner, and Hermann E. Gaub -
J. Am. Chem. Soc. 128(20), 6636-6639

In this paper, we measure the single chain elasticity of an oligomer single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) in both aqueous and nonaqueous, apolar liquid environments by AFM-based single molecule force spectroscopy. We find a marked deviation between the force-extension relations recorded for the two conditions. This difference is attributed to the additional energy required to break the H-bond-directed water bridges around the ssDNA chain in aqueous solutions, which are nonexistent in organic solvents. The results obtained in 8 M guanidine-HCl solution provide more evidence that water bridges around ssDNA originate the observed deviation. On the basis of the results obtained by an ab initio quantum mechanics calculation, a parameter-free freely rotating chain model is proposed. We find that this model is in perfect agreement with the experimental force-extension curve obtained in organic solvents, which further corroborates our assumption. On the basis of the experimental results, it is suggested that the weak H-bonding between ssDNA and water molecules may be a precondition for stable double-stranded DNA to exist in water.

 

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