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Multiplexed DNA-Mediated Electrochemistry


Pheeney, Catrina Gale (2014) Multiplexed DNA-Mediated Electrochemistry. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/PCF7-9669.


The aromatic core of double helical DNA possesses the unique and remarkable ability to form a conduit for electrons to travel over exceptionally long molecular distances. This core of π-stacked nucleobases creates an efficient pathway for charge transfer to proceed that is exquisitely sensitive to even subtle perturbations. Ground state electrochemistry of DNA-modified electrodes has been one of the major techniques used both to investigate and to harness the property of DNA-mediated charge transfer. DNA-modified electrodes have been an essential tool for both gaining insights into the fundamental properties of DNA and, due to the exquisite specificity of DNA-mediated charge transfer for the integrity of the π-stack, for use in next generation diagnostic sensing. Here, multiplexed DNA-modified electrodes are used to (i) gain new insights on the electrochemical coupling of metalloproteins to the DNA π-stack with relevance to the fundaments of in vivo DNA-mediated charge transfer and (ii) enhance the overall sensitivity of DNA-mediated reduction for use in the detection of low abundance diagnostic targets.

First, Methylene Blue (MB′) was covalently attached to DNA through a flexible C12 alkyl linker to yield a new redox reporter for DNA electrochemistry measurements with enhanced sensitivity. Tethered, intercalated MB′ was reduced through DNA-mediated charge transport. The redox signal intensity for MB′-dT-C12-DNA was found to be at least 3 fold larger than that of previously used Nile Blue (NB)-dT-DNA, which is coupled to the base stack via direct conjugation. The signal attenuation, due to an intervening mismatch, and therefore the degree of DNA-mediated reduction, does, however, depend on the DNA film morphology and the backfilling agent used to passivate the surface. These results highlight two possible mechanisms for the reduction of MB′ on the DNA-modified electrode that are distinguishable by their kinetics: reduction mediated by the DNA base pair stack and direct surface reduction of MB′ at the electrode. The extent of direct reduction at the surface can be minimized by overall DNA assembly conditions.

Next, a series of intercalation-based DNA-mediated electrochemical reporters were developed, using a flexible alkane linkage to validate and explore their DNA-mediated reduction. The general mechanism for the reduction of distally bound redox active species, covalently tethered to DNA through flexible alkyl linkages, was established to be an intraduplex DNA-mediated pathway. MB, NB, and anthraquinone were covalently tethered to DNA with three different covalent linkages. The extent of electronic coupling of the reporter was shown to correlate with the DNA binding affinity of the redox active species, supporting an intercalative mechanism. These electrochemical signals were shown to be exceptionally sensitive to a single intervening π-stack perturbation, an AC mismatch, in a densely packed DNA monolayer, which further supports that the reduction is DNA-mediated. Finally, this DNA-mediated reduction of MB occurs primarily via intra- rather than inter duplex intercalation, as probed through varying the proximity and integrity of the neighboring duplex DNA. Further gains to electrochemical sensitivity of our DNA-modified devices were then achieved through the application of electrocatalytic signal amplification using these solvent accessible intercalative reporters, MB-dT-C8, and hemoglobin as a novel electron sink. Electrocatalysis offers an excellent means of electrochemical signal amplification, yet in DNA based sensors, its application has been limited due to strict assembly conditions. We describe the use of hemoglobin as a robust and effective electron sink for electrocatalysis in DNA sensing on low density DNA films. Protein shielding of the heme redox center minimizes direct reduction at the electrode surface and permits assays on low density DNA films. Electrocatalysis of MB that is covalently tethered to the DNA by a flexible alkyl linkage allows for efficient interactions with both the base stack and hemoglobin. Consistent suppression of the redox signal upon incorporation of single CA mismatch in the DNA oligomer demonstrates that both the unamplified and the electrocatalytically amplified redox signals are generated through DNA-mediated charge transport. Electrocatalysis with hemoglobin is robust: it is stable to pH and temperature variations. The utility and applicability of electrocatalysis with hemoglobin is demonstrated through restriction enzyme detection, and an enhancement in sensitivity permits femtomole DNA sampling.

Finally, we expanded the application of our multiplexed DNA-modified electrodes to the electrochemical characterization of DNA-bound proteins containing [4Fe-4S] clusters. DNA-modified electrodes have become an essential tool for the characterization of the redox chemistry of DNA repair proteins that contain redox cofactors. Multiplexed analysis of EndonucleaseIII (EndoIII), a DNA repair protein containing a [4Fe-4S] cluster known to be accessible via DNA-mediated charge transport, elucidated subtle differences in the electrochemical behavior as a function of DNA morphology. DNA-bound EndoIII is seen to have two different electron transfer pathways for reduction, either through the DNA base stack or through direct surface reduction. Closely packed DNA films, where the protein has limited surface accessibility, produce electrochemical signals reflecting electron transfer that is DNA-mediated. The electrochemical comparison of EndoIII mutants, including a new family of mutations altering the electrostatics surrounding the [4Fe-4S] cluster, was able to be quantitatively performed. While little change in the midpoint potential was found for this family of mutants, significant variations in the efficiency of DNA-mediated electron transfer were apparent. Based on the stability of these proteins, examined by circular dichroism, we propose that the electron transfer pathway can be perturbed not only by the removal of aromatic residues, but also through changes in solvation near the cluster.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:DNA charge transfer, electrochemistry, biosensing, multiplex, Methylene Blue
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
Major Option:Chemistry
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Barton, Jacqueline K.
Thesis Committee:
  • Tirrell, David A. (chair)
  • Barton, Jacqueline K.
  • Heath, James R.
  • Dougherty, Dennis A.
Defense Date:22 August 2013
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:09192013-114842407
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for Ch. 2 DOIArticle adapted for Ch. 4 adapted for Ch. 5
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7960
Deposited By: Catrina Pheeney
Deposited On:24 Sep 2013 16:46
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 00:02

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