The biophysics of DNA hybridization with immobilized oligonucleotide probes

V. Chan, D. J. Graves, S. E. McKenzie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

191 Scopus citations


A mathematical model based on receptor-ligand interactions at a cell surface has been modified and further developed to represent heterogeneous DNA-DNA hybridization on a solid surface. The immobilized DNA molecules with known sequences are called probes, and the DNA molecules in solution with unknown sequences are called targets in this model. Capture of the perfectly complementary target is modeled as a combined reaction-diffusion limited irreversible reaction. In the model, there are two different mechanisms by which targets can hybridize with the complementary probes: direct hybridization from the solution and hybridization by molecules that adsorb nonspecifically and then surface diffuse to the probe. The results indicate that nonspecific adsorption of single-stranded DNA on the surface and subsequent two-dimensional diffusion can significantly enhance the overall reaction rate. Heterogeneous hybridization depends strongly on the rate constants for DNA adsorption/desorption in the non-probe-covered regions of the surface, the two-dimensional (2D) diffusion coefficient, and the size of probes and targets. The model shows that the overall kinetics of DNA hybridization to DNA on a solid support may be an extremely efficient process for physically realistic 2D diffusion coefficients, target concentrations, and surface probe densities. The implication for design and operation of a DNA hybridization surface is that there is an optimal surface probe density when 2D diffusion occurs; values above that optimum do not increase the capture rate. Our model predicts capture rates in agreement with those from recent experimental literature. The results of our analysis predict that several things can be done to improve heterogeneous hybridization: 1) the solution phase target molecules should be about 100 bases or less in size to speed solution-phase and surface diffusion; 2) conditions should be created such that reversible adsorption and two-dimensional diffusion occur in the surface regions between DNA probe molecules; 3) provided that 2) is satisfied, one can achieve results with a sparse probe coverage that are equal to or better than those obtained with a surface totally covered with DNA probes.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)2243-2255
Number of pages13
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1995


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