Label-free detection of conformational changes in switchable DNA nanostructures with microwave microfluidics

Angela C. Stelson, Minghui Liu, Charles A.E. Little, Christian J. Long, Nathan D. Orloff, Nicholas Stephanopoulos, James C. Booth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Detection of conformational changes in biomolecular assemblies provides critical information into biological and self-assembly processes. State-of-the-art in situ biomolecular conformation detection techniques rely on fluorescent labels or protein-specific binding agents to signal conformational changes. Here, we present an on-chip, label-free technique to detect conformational changes in a DNA nanomechanical tweezer structure with microwave microfluidics. We measure the electromagnetic properties of suspended DNA tweezer solutions from 50 kHz to 110 GHz and directly detect two distinct conformations of the structures. We develop a physical model to describe the electrical properties of the tweezers, and correlate model parameters to conformational changes. The strongest indicator for conformational changes in DNA tweezers are the ionic conductivity, while shifts in the magnitude of the cooperative water relaxation indicate the addition of fuel strands used to open the tweezer. Microwave microfluidic detection of conformational changes is a generalizable, non-destructive technique, making it attractive for high-throughput measurements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1174
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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