Intermediate states of molecular self-assembly from liquid-cell electron microscopy
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- Intermediate states of molecular self-assembly from liquid-cell electron microscopy
- Wang, Huan; Li, Bo; Kim, Ye-Jin; Kwon, Oh Hoon; Granick, Steve
- Issue Date
- NATL ACAD SCIENCES
- PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, v.117, no.3, pp.1283 - 1292
- Traditional single-molecule methods do not report whole-molecule kinetic conformations, and their adaptive shape changes during the process of self-assembly. Here, using graphene liquid-cell electron microscopy with electrons of low energy at low dose, we show that this approach resolves the time dependence of conformational adaptations of macromolecules for times up to minutes, the resolution determined by motion blurring, with DNA as the test case. Single-stranded DNA molecules are observed in real time as they hybridize near the solid surface to form double-stranded helices; we contrast molecules the same length but differing in base-pair microstructure (random, blocky, and palin-dromic hairpin) whose key difference is that random sequences possess only one stable final state, but the others offer metastable intermediate structures. Hybridization is observed to couple with enhanced translational mobility and torsion-induced rotation of the molecule. Prevalent transient loops are observed in error-correction processes. Transient melting and other failed encounters are observed in the competitive binding of multiple single-stranded molecules. Among the intermediate states reported here, some were predicted but not observed previously, and the high incidence of looping and enhanced mobility come as surprises. The error-producing mechanisms, failed encounters, and transient intermediate states would not be easily resolved by traditional single-molecule methods. The methods generalize to visualize motions and interactions of other organic macromolecules.
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