DNA as UV light-harvesting antenna

Nucleic Acids Res. 2018 Apr 20;46(7):3543-3551. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkx1185.


The ordered structure of UV chromophores in DNA resembles photosynthetic light-harvesting complexes in which quantum coherence effects play a major role in highly efficient directional energy transfer. The possible role of coherent excitons in energy transport in DNA remains debated. Meanwhile, energy transport properties are greatly important for understanding the mechanisms of photochemical reactions in cellular DNA and for DNA-based artificial nanostructures. Here, we studied energy transfer in DNA complexes formed with silver nanoclusters and with intercalating dye (acridine orange). Steady-state fluorescence measurements with two DNA templates (15-mer DNA duplex and calf thymus DNA) showed that excitation energy can be transferred to the clusters from 21 and 28 nucleobases, respectively. This differed from the DNA-acridine orange complex for which energy transfer took place from four neighboring bases only. Fluorescence up-conversion measurements showed that the energy transfer took place within 100 fs. The efficient energy transport in the Ag-DNA complexes suggests an excitonic mechanism for the transfer, such that the excitation is delocalized over at least four and seven stacked bases, respectively, in one strand of the duplexes stabilizing the clusters. This result demonstrates that the exciton delocalization length in some DNA structures may not be limited to just two bases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acridine Orange / chemistry
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / radiation effects
  • Energy Transfer / radiation effects*
  • Fluorescence
  • Nanostructures / chemistry
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation / radiation effects*
  • Photosynthesis / genetics
  • Photosynthesis / radiation effects
  • Quantum Theory
  • Silver / chemistry
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Silver
  • DNA
  • calf thymus DNA
  • Acridine Orange