Sensing Conformational Changes in DNA upon Ligand Binding Using QCM-D. Polyamine Condensation and Rad51 Extension of DNA Layers

Lu Sun, Karolin Frykholm, Louise H. Fornander, Sofia Svedhem, Fredrik Westerlund, Björn Åkerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


© 2014 American Chemical Society. Biosensors, in which binding of ligands is detected through changes in the optical or electrochemical properties of a DNA layer confined to the sensor surface, are important tools for investigating DNA interactions. Here, we investigate if conformational changes induced in surface-attached DNA molecules upon ligand binding can be monitored by the quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation (QCM-D) technique. DNA duplexes containing 59-184 base pairs were formed on QCM-D crystals by stepwise assembly of synthetic oligonucleotides of designed base sequences. The DNA films were exposed to the cationic polyamines spermidine and spermine, known to condense DNA molecules in bulk experiments, or to the recombination protein Rad51, known to extend the DNA helix. The binding and dissociation of the ligands to the DNA films were monitored in real time by measurements of the shifts in resonance frequency (Δf) and in dissipation (ΔD). The QCM-D data were analyzed using a Voigt-based model for the viscoelastic properties of polymer films in order to evaluate how the ligands affect thickness and shear viscosity of the DNA layer. Binding of spermine shrinks all DNA layers and increases their viscosity in a reversible fashion, and so does spermidine, but to a smaller extent, in agreement with its lower positive charge. SPR was used to measure the amount of bound polyamines, and when combined with QCM-D, the data indicate that the layer condensation leads to a small release of water from the highly hydrated DNA films. The binding of Rad51 increases the effective layer thickness of a 59bp film, more than expected from the know 50% DNA helix extension. The combined results provide guidelines for a QCM-D biosensor based on ligand-induced structural changes in DNA films. The QCM-D approach provides high discrimination between ligands affecting the thickness and the structural properties of the DNA layer differently. The reversibility of the film deformation allows comparative studies of two or more analytes using the same DNA layer as demonstrated here by spermine and spermidine.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11895-11904
Number of pages10
JournalThe Journal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number41
StatePublished - Oct 8 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): KUK-11-008-23
Acknowledgements: This work was supported by the Area of advance in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology at Chalmers University of Technology and King Abdullah University of Science and
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


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