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Overstretching of DNA occurs at about 60-70 pN when a torsionally unconstrained double-stranded DNA molecule is stretched by its ends. During the transition, the contour length increases by up to 70% without complete strand dissociation. Three mechanisms are thought to be involved: force-induced melting into single-stranded DNA where either one or both strands carry the tension, or a B-to-S transition into a longer, still base-paired conformation. We stretch sequence-designed oligonucleotides in an effort to isolate the three processes, focusing on force-induced melting. By introducing site-specific inter-strand cross-links in one or both ends of a 64 bp AT-rich duplex we could repeatedly follow the two melting processes at 5 mM and 1 M monovalent salt. We find that when one end is sealed the AT-rich sequence undergoes peeling exhibiting hysteresis at low and high salt. When both ends are sealed the AT sequence instead undergoes internal melting. Thirdly, the peeling melting is studied in a composite oligonucleotide where the same AT-rich sequence is concatenated to a GC-rich sequence known to undergo a B-to-S transition rather than melting. The construct then first melts in the AT-rich part followed at higher forces by a B-to-S transition in the GC-part, indicating that DNA overstretching modes are additive.

Original publication

DOI

10.1093/nar/gku441

Type

Journal article

Journal

Nucleic Acids Res

Publication Date

07/2014

Volume

42

Pages

8083 - 8091

Keywords

AT Rich Sequence, Biomechanical Phenomena, DNA, Nucleic Acid Denaturation, Nucleic Acid Hybridization, Oligodeoxyribonucleotides, Osmolar Concentration