Gel electrophoretic analysis of DNA branched junctions

Nadrian C. Seeman, Jung‐Huei ‐H Chen, Neville R. Kallenbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gel electrophoresis has provided much of the detailed information we have about the properties of DNA junctions, stable branched molecules formed from oligonucleotide or polynucleotide strands. Here we review these applications, and present the results of an electrophoretic investigation of conformationally restricted junctions formed by covalently connecting two different pairs of strands in a junction with four arms. Native gel electrophoresis is employed to establish the formation and stoichiometry of the multistrand complexes. Ferguson analysis of native gel mobility shows that junctions have retardation coefficients that are distinct from those of linear DNA duplexes. Denaturing gel electrophoresis is the primary tool for characterizing junctions that have been covalently linked together to form both linear and macrocyclic oligomers of junctions (oligojunctions). Radioactively labelled strands enable one to monitor the progress of the ligation reaction: both linear and closed cyclic molecules result, and these can be distinguished by applying Ferguson analysis to denaturing gels. Combinations of exonuclease III, restriction enzymes and sequencing reactions have been applied to oligojunction molecules, and the results are all analyzed on denaturing gels. Junctions containing intramolecular “tethers” that restrict the conformation freedom of the complex comprise a new system for analyzing the conformations of branched molecules. In these tethered junctions, the ability of arms to moverelative to each other is restricted substantially by covalently connecting pairs of arms in the original complex with short, flexible loops. The two tethers used here constrain the helical domains of the structure to be roughly parallel or anti‐parallel. In this article we use Ferguson analysis to compare two tethered junctions with an untethered junction. At high gel concentrations, the mobility of the untethered complex is found to be closer to that of the molecule tethered anti‐parallel than to the one tethered parallel. Curvature in the Ferguson plots for all three of these junctions is detected over arange of compositions. At low gel concentrations, differences in electrophoretic mobility persist, suggesting that the untethered junction differs in charge as well as conformational freedom from the tethered analogs. We expect that studies of this kind will able to define the conformational repertoire of junctions of different kinds, and to explore the effects of electrophoresis on these states.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-354
Number of pages10
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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