Hyperstretching DNA

Koen Schakenraad, Andreas S. Biebricher, Maarten Sebregts, Brian ten Bensel, Erwin J. G. Peterman, Gijs J. L. Wuite, Iddo Heller, Cornelis Storm, Paul van der Schoot

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The three-dimensional structure of DNA is highly susceptible to changes by mechanical and biochemical cues in vivo and in vitro. In particular, large increases in base pair spacing compared to regular B-DNA are effected by mechanical (over)stretching and by intercalation of compounds that are widely used in biophysical/chemical assays and drug treatments. We present single-molecule experiments and a three-state statistical mechanical model that provide a quantitative understanding of the interplay between B-DNA, overstretched DNA and intercalated DNA. The predictions of this model include a hitherto unconfirmed hyperstretched state, twice the length of B-DNA. Our force-fluorescence experiments confirm this hyperstretched state and reveal its sequence dependence. These results pin down the physical principles that govern DNA mechanics under the influence of tension and biochemical reactions. A predictive understanding of the possibilities and limitations of DNA extension can guide refined exploitation of DNA in, e.g., programmable soft materials and DNA origami applications.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2197
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Dec 2017


We acknowledge support by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) through project no. 712.012.007 (P.v.d.S.), the Human Frontier Science Program via a Research Grant (E.J.G.P.) and NWO VIDI (I.H.), VICI (G.J.L.W.) as well as an ERC Starting Grant (G.J.L.W.). We thank G. A. King for discussions.

FundersFunder number
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
Human Frontier Science Program
European Research Council
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek712.012.007


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