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Bruetzel, Linda K.; Gerling, Thomas; Sedlak, Steffen M.; Walker, Philipp U.; Zheng, Wenjun; Dietz, Hendrik and Lipfert, Jan (2016): Conformational Changes and Flexibility of DNA Devices Observed by Small-Angle X-ray Scattering. In: Nano Letters, Vol. 16, No. 8: pp. 4871-4879

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Self-assembled DNA origami nanostructures enable the creation of precisely defined shapes at the molecular scale. Dynamic DNA devices that are capable of switching between defined conformations could afford completely novel functionalities for diagnostic, therapeutic, or engineering applications. Developing such objects benefits strongly from experimental feedback about conformational changes and 3D structures, ideally in solution, free of potential biases from surface attachment or labeling. Here, we demonstrate that small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) can quantitatively resolve the conformational changes of a DNA origami two-state switch device as a function of the ionic strength of the solution. In addition, we show how SAXS data allow for refinement of the predicted idealized three-dimensional structure of the DNA object using a normal mode approach based on an elastic network model. The results reveal deviations from the idealized design geometries that are otherwise difficult to resolve. Our results establish SAXS as a powerful tool to investigate conformational changes and solution structures of DNA origami and we anticipate our methodology to be broadly applicable to increasingly complex DNA and RNA devices.

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