Reversible Fluorescence Photoswitching in DNA

Darren A. Smith, Philipp Holliger, Cristina Flors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We describe the engineering of reversible fluorescence photoswitching in DNA with high-density substitution, and its applications in advanced fluorescence microscopy methods. High-density labeling of DNA with cyanine dyes can be achieved by polymerase chain reaction using a modified DNA polymerase that has been evolved to efficiently incorporate Cy3- and Cy5-labeled cytosine base analogues into double-stranded DNA. The resulting biopolymer, “CyDNA”, displays hundreds of fluorophores per DNA strand and is strongly colored and highly fluorescent, although previous observations suggest that fluorescence quenching at such high density might be a concern, especially for Cy5. Herein, we first investigate the mechanisms of fluorescence quenching in CyDNA and we suggest that two different mechanisms, aggregate formation and resonance energy transfer, are responsible for fluorescence quenching at high labeling densities. Moreover, we have been able to re-engineer CyDNA into a reversible fluorescence photoswitchable biopolymer by using the properties of the Cy3–Cy5 pair. This novel biopolymer constitutes a new class of photoactive DNA-based nanomaterial and is of great interest for advanced microscopy applications. We show that reversible fluorescence photoswitching in CyDNA can be exploited in optical lock-in detection imaging. It also lays the foundations for improved and sequence-specific super-resolution fluorescence microscopy of DNA.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10290-10293
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B (Soft Condensed Matter and Biophysical Chemistry)
Issue number34
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2012


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