Conformational Dynamics of Poly(T) Single-Stranded DNA at the Single-Molecule Level

Shi Ho Kim, Tae Hee Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The conformational dynamics of single-stranded DNA (ss-DNA) are implicated in the mechanisms of several key biological processes such as DNA replication and damage repair and have been modeled with those of semiflexible or flexible polymer. The high flexibility and customizability of ss-DNA also make it an excellent polymeric material for materials engineering. Polythymidine (poly(T)) is an excellent model ss-DNA as a flexible polymer since it does not form any secondary structure. However, only limited experimental results have been reported of poly(T) conformational dynamics with a very short length that is not relevant to the aforementioned processes and applications. Here, we provide the first experimental results of the conformational dynamics of poly(T) with lengths in the range of 130-170 nucleotides at the single-molecule level. Our experiments are based on single-molecule FRET and a DNA hairpin structure of which the folding kinetics are governed by the conformational dynamics of poly(T). We found that the folding kinetics deviate far from those of a flexible polymer model with a harmonic bending potential. To this end, we derived a simple model for the kinetics of DNA hairpin folding from the self-avoiding-walk (SAW). Our model describes the conformational dynamics of poly(T) very well and enables estimation of the conformational dimensionality. The estimated dimensionalities suggest that ss-DNA is completely flexible at 100 mM or a higher NaCl concentration, but not at 50 mM. These results will help understand the conformational dynamics of ss-DNA implicated in several key biological processes and maximize the utility of ss-DNA for materials engineering. Also, our system and model provide an excellent platform to investigate the conformational dynamics of ss-DNA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4576-4584
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry Letters
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 20 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Materials Science
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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