Nucleic acids research

Internally labeled Cy3/Cy5 DNA constructs show greatly enhanced photo-stability in single-molecule FRET experiments.

PMID 24627223


DNA constructs labeled with cyanine fluorescent dyes are important substrates for single-molecule (sm) studies of the functional activity of protein-DNA complexes. We previously studied the local DNA backbone fluctuations of replication fork and primer-template DNA constructs labeled with Cy3/Cy5 donor-acceptor Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) chromophore pairs and showed that, contrary to dyes linked 'externally' to the bases with flexible tethers, direct 'internal' (and rigid) insertion of the chromophores into the sugar-phosphate backbones resulted in DNA constructs that could be used to study intrinsic and protein-induced DNA backbone fluctuations by both smFRET and sm Fluorescent Linear Dichroism (smFLD). Here we show that these rigidly inserted Cy3/Cy5 chromophores also exhibit two additional useful properties, showing both high photo-stability and minimal effects on the local thermodynamic stability of the DNA constructs. The increased photo-stability of the internal labels significantly reduces the proportion of false positive smFRET conversion 'background' signals, thereby simplifying interpretations of both smFRET and smFLD experiments, while the decreased effects of the internal probes on local thermodynamic stability also make fluctuations sensed by these probes more representative of the unperturbed DNA structure. We suggest that internal probe labeling may be useful in studies of many DNA-protein interaction systems.

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