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Biomechanics of DNA structures visualized by 4D electron microscopy

Lorenz, Ulrich J. and Zewail, Ahmed H. (2013) Biomechanics of DNA structures visualized by 4D electron microscopy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110 (8). pp. 2822-2827. ISSN 0027-8424. PMCID PMC3581949. doi:10.1073/pnas.1300630110.

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We present a technique for in situ visualization of the biomechanics of DNA structural networks using 4D electron microscopy. Vibrational oscillations of the DNA structure are excited mechanically through a short burst of substrate vibrations triggered by a laser pulse. Subsequently, the motion is probed with electron pulses to observe the impulse response of the specimen in space and time. From the frequency and amplitude of the observed oscillations, we determine the normal modes and eigenfrequencies of the structures involved. Moreover, by selective “nano-cutting” at a given point in the network, it was possible to obtain Young’s modulus, and hence the stiffness, of the DNA filament at that position. This experimental approach enables nanoscale mechanics studies of macromolecules and should find applications in other domains of biological networks such as origamis.

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Additional Information:© 2013 National Academy of Sciences. Contributed by Ahmed H. Zewail, January 10, 2013 (sent for review December 3, 2012). Published online before print February 4, 2013. We thank Professors Charles M. Lieber, Chad A. Mirkin, Carlos Bustamante, and John M. Thomas for insightful remarks, as well as Dr. S. T. Park for helpful discussions. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation Grant DMR-0964886 and Air Force Office of Scientific Research Grant FA9550-11-1-0055 in the Physical Biology Center for Ultrafast Science and Technology at Caltech supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. U.J.L. is grateful for a postdoctoral fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation. Author contributions: U.J.L. and A.H.Z. designed research, performed research, and wrote the paper. The authors declare no conflict of interest. This article contains supporting information online at
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR)FA9550-11-1-0055
Gordon and Betty Moore FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:nanomechanical properties; ultrafast electron microscopy
Issue or Number:8
PubMed Central ID:PMC3581949
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20130411-162159076
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Official Citation:Ulrich J. Lorenz and Ahmed H. Zewail Biomechanics of DNA structures visualized by 4D electron microscopy PNAS 2013 110 (8) 2822-2827; published ahead of print February 4, 2013, doi:10.1073/pnas.1300630110
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:37892
Deposited On:12 Apr 2013 14:37
Last Modified:09 Nov 2021 23:32

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