Biochemical and biophysical properties of positively supercoiled DNA

Biophys Chem. 2017 Nov;230:68-73. doi: 10.1016/j.bpc.2017.08.008. Epub 2017 Sep 1.


In this paper we successfully developed a procedure to generate the (+) supercoiled (sc) plasmid DNA template pZXX6 in the milligram range. With the availability of the (+) sc DNA, we are able to characterize and compare certain biochemical and biophysical properties of (+) sc, (-) sc, and relaxed (rx) DNA molecules using different techniques, such as UV melting, circular dichroism, and fluorescence spectrometry. Our results show that (+) sc, (-) sc, and rx DNA templates can only be partially melted due to the fact that these DNA templates are closed circular DNA molecules and the two DNA strands cannot be completely separated upon denaturation at high temperatures. We also find that the fluorescence intensity of a DNA-binding dye SYTO12 upon binding to the (-) sc DNA is significantly higher than that of its binding to the (+) sc DNA. This unique property may be used to differentiate the (-) sc DNA from the (+) sc DNA. Additionally, we demonstrate that E. coli topoisomerase I cannot relax the (+) sc DNA. In contrast, E. coli DNA gyrase can efficiently convert the (+) sc DNA to the (-) sc DNA. Furthermore, our dialysis competition assays show that DNA intercalators prefer binding to the (-) sc DNA.

Keywords: (+) sc DNA; (−) sc DNA; DNA topoisomerase; Intercalators; rx DNA.

MeSH terms

  • Circular Dichroism
  • DNA Gyrase / metabolism
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type I / metabolism
  • DNA, Superhelical / chemistry*
  • DNA, Superhelical / metabolism
  • Electrophoresis, Agar Gel
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry
  • Fluorescent Dyes / metabolism
  • Intercalating Agents / chemistry
  • Intercalating Agents / metabolism
  • Nucleic Acid Denaturation / radiation effects
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Plasmids / metabolism
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • DNA, Superhelical
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Intercalating Agents
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type I
  • DNA Gyrase