Influence of DNA Binding Dyes on Bare DNA Structure Studied with Atomic Force Microscopy
Fluorescent dyes are widely used for staining and visualization of DNA in optical microscopy based methods. Even though for some dyes the mechanism of binding is known, how this binding affects DNA remains poorly understood. Here we present a novel experimental study of the influence of staining dyes on DNA properties. We use atomic force microscopy which allows quantification and measurement of structural properties of stained DNA with nanometer resolution. We studied the influence of dyes on the persistence length, the total contour length, and the morphology of individual DNA molecules. We tested three widely used dyes known to differently bind DNA molecules, namely PicoGreen, Dapi, and DRAQ5. Based on our measurements, when imaged at typical concentrations (manufacturer suggested concentrations used for cell imaging), PicoGreen dye showed little effect, Dapi dye decreased the DNA persistence length, and DRAQ5 decreased the persistence length and elongated the DNA. When used at high concentrations, all of the dyes induced drastic changes in the DNA morphology. Our study clearly shows that DNA-binding dyes, irrespective of their DNA binding mechanisms, strongly influence the physical properties of DNA. These changes are strongly dose and dye type dependent and therefore should be taken into consideration when conducting experiments with DNA.