Scanning Microscopy


The scanning tunneling microscope has been used to obtain images of DNA that reveal its major and minor grooves and the direction of helical coiling, but sufficient resolution has not yet been achieved to identify its bases. To determine if this technology is capable of identifying individual DNA bases, we have examined the molecular arrangements of adenine and thymine attached to the basal plane of highly oriented pyrolytic graphite. Both molecules form highly organized lattices following deposition on heated graphite. Lattice dimensions, structural periodicities, and the epitaxy of adenine and thymine molecules with respect to the basal plane of graphite have been determined. Images of these molecules at atomic resolution reveal that the aromatic regions are strongly detected in both molecules while the various side-groups are not well-resolved. These studies provide the first evidence that tunneling microscopy can be used to discriminate between purines and pyrimidines.

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