The structure of DNA by direct imaging

Monica Marini, Andrea Falqui, Manola Moretti, Tania Limongi, Marco Allione, Alessandro Genovese, Sergei Lopatin, Luca Tirinato, Gobind Das, Bruno Torre, Andrea Giugni, Francesco Gentile, Patrizio Candeloro, Enzo Di Fabrizio

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36 Scopus citations


The structure of DNA was determined in 1953 by x-ray fiber diffraction. Several attempts have been made to obtain a direct image of DNA with alternative techniques. The direct image is intended to allow a quantitative evaluation of all relevant characteristic lengths present in a molecule. A direct image of DNA, which is different from diffraction in the reciprocal space, is difficult to obtain for two main reasons: the intrinsic very low contrast of the elements that form the molecule and the difficulty of preparing the sample while preserving its pristine shape and size. We show that through a preparation procedure compatible with the DNA physiological conditions, a direct image of a single suspended DNA molecule can be obtained. In the image, all relevant lengths of A-form DNA are measurable. A high-resolution transmission electron microscope that operates at 80 keV with an ultimate resolution of 1.5 Å was used for this experiment. Direct imaging of a single molecule can be used as a method to address biological problems that require knowledge at the single-molecule level, given that the average information obtained by x-ray diffraction of crystals or fibers is not sufficient for detailed structure determination, or when crystals cannot be obtained from biological molecules or are not sufficient in understanding multiple protein configurations.

Original languageBritish English
Article numbere1500734
JournalScience Advances
Issue number7
StatePublished - Aug 2015


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