Nanomechanics of self-assembled DNA building blocks

DNA has become a powerful platform to design functional nanodevices. DNA nanodevices are often composed of self-assembled DNA building blocks that differ significantly from the structure of native DNA. In this study, we present Flow Force Microscopy as a massively parallel approach to study the nanomechanics of DNA self-assemblies on the single-molecular level. The high-throughput experiments performed in a simple microfluidic channel enable statistically meaningful studies with nanometer scale precision in a time frame of several minutes. A surprisingly high flexibility was observed for a typical construct used in DNA origami, reflected in a persistence length of 10.2 nm, a factor of five smaller than for native DNA. The enhanced flexibility is attributed to the discontinuous backbone of DNA self-assemblies that facilitate base pair opening by thermal fluctuations at the end of hybridized oligomers. We believe that the results will contribute to the fundamental understanding of DNA nanomechanics and help to improve the design of DNA nanodevices with applications in biological analysis and clinical research.