Visualization of supercoiled DNA with atomic force microscopy in situ

Yuri L. Lyubchenko, Luda S. Shlyakhtenko

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354 Scopus citations


Tertiary structure of supercoiled DNA is a significant factor in a number of genetic functions and is apparently affected by environmental conditions. We applied atomic force microscopy (AFM) for imaging the supercoiled DNA deposited at different ionic conditions. We have employed a technique for the sample preparation that permits high-resolution AFM imaging of DNA bound to the surface in buffer solutions without drying the sample (AFM in situ). The AFM data show that at low ionic strength, DNA molecules are loosely interwound supercoils with an irregular shape. Plectonemic superhelices are formed in high-concentration, near-physiological salt solutions. At such ionic conditions, super-helical loops are typically separated by regions of close helix-helix contacts. The data obtained show directly and unambiguously that overall geometry of supercoiled DNA depends dramatically on ionic conditions. This fact and the formation of close contacts between DNA helices are important features of supercoiled DNA related to its biological functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)496-501
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 21 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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