Chain Dynamics Limit Electron Transfer from Electrode-Bound, Single-Stranded Oligonucleotides

Philippe Dauphin-Ducharme, Netzahualcóyotl Arroyo-Currás, Ramesh Adhikari, Jacob Somerson, Gabriel Ortega, Dmitrii E. Makarov, Kevin W. Plaxco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


A wide range of new devices aimed at in vivo molecular detection and point-of-care diagnostics rely on binding-induced changes in electron-transfer kinetics from an electrode-attached, redox-reporter-modified oligonucleotide as their signaling mechanism. In an effort to better characterize the mechanisms underlying these sensors, we have measured the electron-transfer kinetics associated with surface-attached, single-stranded DNAs modified with a methylene blue redox reporter either at the chain's distal end or at an internal chain position. We find that although the rate of electron transfer from a reporter placed either terminally or internally is independent of chain length for chains shorter than the length scale of methylene blue (and its linker), for longer chains it follows a power-law dependence on length of exponent approximately â2.2. Such behavior is consistent with a diffusion-controlled mechanism in which the diffusion of the DNA-bound reporter to the surface controls the rate of electron transfer. This said, the observed rates are, at 5-400 s-1, orders of magnitude slower than the intramolecular dynamics of single-stranded oligonucleotides when free in solution. Likewise, the rates of transfer from reporters placed internally are several-fold slower than those seen for the equivalent terminally modified construct. We attribute these effects to electrostatic repulsion between the oligonucleotide and the electrode surface, which is negatively charged at the redox potential of methylene blue. Consistent with this, changing monolayer composition so as to increase the negative charge of the surface reduces the transfer rate still more without significantly altering its power-law chain length dependence. Simple theoretical models and computer simulations performed in support of our experimental studies find similar power-law dependencies, similar electrostatic slowing of the transfer rate, and similar rate differences between terminally an internally modified constructs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21441-21448
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry C
Issue number37
StatePublished - Sep 20 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Energy(all)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films


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