The interaction between nanoparticles (NPs) and DNA is of significance for both application and implication research of NPs. In this study, a single-molecule imaging technique based on atomic force microscopy (AFM) was employed to probe the NP-DNA interactions with quantum dots (QDs) as model NPs. Reproducible high-quality images of single DNA molecules in air and in liquids were acquired on mica by optimizing sample preparation conditions. Furthermore, the binding of QDs to DNA was explored using AFM. The DNA concentration was found to be a key factor influencing AFM imaging quality. In air and liquids, the optimal DNA concentration for imaging DNA molecules was approximately 2.5 and 0.25 μg/mL, and that for imaging DNA binding with QDs was 0.5 and 0.25 μg/mL, respectively. In the presence of QDs, the DNA conformation was altered with the formation of DNA condensates. Finally, the fine conformation of QD-DNA binding sites was examined to analyze the binding mechanisms. This work will benefit investigations of NP-DNA interactions and the understanding of the structure of NP-DNA bioconjugates.
See accompanying article by Wang DOI: 10.1002/biot.201200309