Visualizing structure-mediated interactions in supercoiled DNA molecules
We directly visualize the topology-mediated interactions between an unwinding site on a supercoiled DNA plasmid and a specific probe molecule designed to bind to this site, as a function of DNA supercoiling and temperature. The visualization relies on containing the DNA molecules within an enclosed array of glass nanopits using the Convex Lens-induced Confinement (CLiC) imaging method. This method traps molecules within the focal plane while excluding signal from out-of-focus probes. Simultaneously, the molecules can freely diffuse within the nanopits, allowing for accurate measurements of exchange rates, unlike other methods which could introduce an artifactual bias in measurements of binding kinetics. We demonstrate that the plasmid’s structure influences the binding of the fluorescent probes to the unwinding site through the presence, or lack, of other secondary structures. With this method, we observe an increase in the binding rate of the fluorescent probe to the unwinding site with increasing temperature and negative supercoiling. This increase in binding is consistent with the results of our numerical simulations of the probability of site-unwinding. The temperature dependence of the binding rate has allowed us to distinguish the effects of competing higher order DNA structures, such as Z-DNA, in modulating local site-unwinding, and therefore binding.
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