Scanning Microscopy


Three duplex DNAs 22, 47, and 100 base-pairs in length have been imaged with the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) after deposition on highly oriented pyrolytic graphite (HOPG). Images of the 47 base-pair (bp) molecules are resolved sufficiently to identify the two phosphodiester strands, the direction of helical coiling (this molecule contains three turns of left-handed helix), and single-stranded ends. Length measurements indicate that all three DNA sequences have adopted an "A-like" conformation. DNA-protamine complexes were also prepared and imaged under similar conditions. Length measurements of the complexes demonstrate that the binding of bull protamine 1 to the 47-mer stabilizes the DNA in a B conformation and prevents the B to A transition that has been shown to occur as the DNA molecules dehydrate on the surface. Measurements of the diameter of the complex (3 nm) were also obtained and were found to be only slightly larger than the DNA molecule. This observation is consistent with the binding of the protamine molecule inside one of the grooves.

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