DNA charge transport over 34 nm

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Molecular wires show promise in nanoscale electronics, but the synthesis of uniform, long conductive molecules is a significant challenge. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) of precise length, by contrast, is synthesized easily, but its conductivity over the distances required for nanoscale devices has not been explored. Here we demonstrate DNA charge transport (CT) over 34 nm in 100-mer monolayers on gold. Multiplexed gold electrodes modified with 100-mer DNA yield sizable electrochemical signals from a distal, covalent Nile Blue redox probe. Significant signal attenuation upon incorporation of a single base-pair mismatch demonstrates that CT is DNA-mediated. Efficient cleavage of these 100-mers by a restriction enzyme indicates that the DNA adopts a native conformation accessible to protein binding. Similar electron-transfer rates measured through 100-mer and 17-mer monolayers are consistent with rate-limiting electron tunnelling through the saturated carbon linker. This DNA-mediated CT distance of 34 nm surpasses that of most reports of molecular wires.

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Figure 1: Illustration of the DNAs used on the electrodes.
Figure 2: Electrochemistry of 100-mer well-matched and mismatched monolayers.
Figure 3: Kinetics of CT through 100-mer and 17-mer monolayers.
Figure 4: Electrochemistry and enzymatic activity on various DNA films.
Figure 5


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This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (GM61077). J.D.S. also thanks the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering for a postdoctoral fellowship (F32EB007900). The authors thank J. Genereux, A. Gorodetsky and M. Buzzeo for discussions, and K. Kan for assistance with the fabrication of the silicon chips. This work was completed in part in the Caltech Micro Nano Fabrication Laboratory.

Author information

J.K.B., J.D.S. and N.B.M. conceived and designed the experiments. J.D.S., N.B.M. and S.E.R. carried out the experiments. J.D.S., N.B.M. and J.K.B. analysed the results and co-wrote the paper.

Correspondence to Jacqueline K. Barton.

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Slinker, J., Muren, N., Renfrew, S. et al. DNA charge transport over 34 nm. Nature Chem 3, 228–233 (2011) doi:10.1038/nchem.982

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