Anomalously Rapid Hydration Water Diffusion Dynamics Near DNA Surfaces

John M. Franck, Yuan Ding, Katherine Stone, Peter Z. Qin, Songi Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


The emerging Overhauser effect dynamic nuclear polarization (ODNP) technique measures the translational mobility of water within the vicinity (5-15 Å) of preselected sites. The work presented here expands the capabilities of the ODNP technique and illuminates an important, previously unseen, property of the translational diffusion dynamics of water at the surface of DNA duplexes. We attach nitroxide radicals (i.e., spin labels) to multiple phosphate backbone positions of DNA duplexes, allowing ODNP to measure the hydration dynamics at select positions along the DNA surface. With a novel approach to ODNP analysis, we isolate the contributions of water molecules at these sites that undergo free translational diffusion from water molecules that either loosely bind to or exchange protons with the DNA. The results reveal that a significant population of water in a localized volume adjacent to the DNA surface exhibits fast, bulk-like characteristics and moves unusually rapidly compared to water found in similar probe volumes near protein and membrane surfaces. Control studies show that the observation of these characteristics are upheld even when the DNA duplex is tethered to streptavidin or the mobility of the nitroxides is altered. This implies that, as compared to protein or lipid surfaces, it is an intrinsic feature of the DNA duplex surface that it interacts only weakly with a significant fraction of the surface hydration water network. The displacement of this translationally mobile water is energetically less costly than that of more strongly bound water by up to several kBT and thus can lower the activation barrier for interactions involving the DNA surface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12013-12023
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number37
StatePublished - Sep 23 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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