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Internal vs Fishhook Hairpin DNA: Unzipping Locations and Mechanisms in the α‑Hemolysin Nanopore

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journal contribution
posted on 17.12.2015, 05:48 by Yun Ding, Aaron M. Fleming, Henry S. White, Cynthia J. Burrows
Studies on the interaction of hairpin DNA with the α-hemolysin (α-HL) nanopore have determined hairpin unzipping kinetics, thermodynamics, and sequence-dependent DNA/protein interactions. Missing from these results is a systematic study comparing the unzipping process for fishhook (one-tail) vs internal (two-tail) hairpins when they are electrophoretically driven from the cis to the trans side of α-HL via a 30-mer single-stranded tail. In the current studies, fishhook hairpins showed long unzipping times with one deep blockage current level. In contrast, the internal hairpins demonstrated relatively fast unzipping and a characteristic pulse-like current pattern. These differences were further explored with respect to stem length and sequence context. Further, a series of internal hairpins with asymmetric tails were studied, for which it was determined that a second tail longer than 12 nucleotides results in internal hairpin unzipping behavior, while tail lengths of 6 nucleotides behaved like fishhook hairpins. Interestingly, these studies were able to resolve a current difference of ∼6% between hairpin DNA immobilized in the nanopore waiting to unzip vs the translocating unzipped DNA, with the latter showing a deeper current blockage level. This demonstration of different currents for immobilized and translocating DNA has not been described previously. These results were interpreted as fishhook hairpins unzipping inside the vestibule, while the internal hairpins unzip outside the vestibule of α-HL. Lastly, we used this knowledge to study the unzipping of a long double-stranded DNA (>50 base pairs) outside the vestibule of α-HL. The conclusions drawn from these studies are anticipated to be beneficial in future application of nanopore analysis of nucleic acids.