Long DNA constructs to study helicases and nucleic acid translocases using optical tweezers

Clara Aicart-Ramos, Silvia Hormeño, Oliver J. Wilkinson, Mark S. Dillingham and Fernando Moreno-Herrero.

Abstract: Single molecule biophysics experiments for the study of DNA-protein interactions usually require production of a homogeneous population of long DNA molecules with controlled sequence content and/or internal tertiary structures. Traditionally, Lambda phage DNA has been used for this purpose, but it is difficult to customize. In this article, we provide a detailed and simple protocol for cloning large (~ 25 kbp) plasmids with bespoke sequence content, which can be used to generate custom DNA constructs for a range of single-molecule experiments. In particular, we focus on a procedure for making long single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) molecules, ssDNA-dsDNA hybrids and long DNA constructs with flaps, which are especially relevant for studying the activity of DNA helicases and translocases. Additionally, we describe how the modification of the free ends of such substrates can facilitate their binding to functionalized surfaces allowing immobilization and imaging using dual optical tweezers and confocal microscopy. Finally, we provide examples of how these DNA constructs have been applied to study the activity of human DNA helicase B (HELB). The techniques described herein are simple, versatile, adaptable, and accessible to any laboratory with access to standard molecular biology methods.

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