Nature communications

Ultrafast cooling reveals microsecond-scale biomolecular dynamics.

PMID 25517430


The temperature-jump technique, in which the sample is rapidly heated by a powerful laser pulse, has been widely used to probe the fast dynamics of folding of proteins and nucleic acids. However, the existing temperature-jump setups tend to involve sophisticated and expensive instrumentation, while providing only modest temperature changes of ~10-15 °C, and the temperature changes are only rapid for heating, but not cooling. Here we present a setup comprising a thermally conductive sapphire substrate with light-absorptive nano-coating, a microfluidic device and a rapidly switched moderate-power infrared laser with the laser beam focused on the nano-coating, enabling heating and cooling of aqueous solutions by ~50 °C on a 1-μs time scale. The setup is used to probe folding and unfolding dynamics of DNA hairpins after direct and inverse temperature jumps, revealing low-pass filter behaviour during periodic temperature variations.

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