Tuning Optical Absorption and Emission Using Strongly Coupled Dimers in Programmable DNA Scaffolds

J Phys Chem Lett. 2022 Feb 24;13(7):1863-1871. doi: 10.1021/acs.jpclett.1c03848. Epub 2022 Feb 17.


Molecular materials for light harvesting, computing, and fluorescence imaging require nanoscale integration of electronically active subunits. Variation in the optical absorption and emission properties of the subunits has primarily been achieved through modifications to the chemical structure, which is often synthetically challenging. Here, we introduce a facile method for varying optical absorption and emission properties by changing the geometry of a strongly coupled Cy3 dimer on a double-crossover (DX) DNA tile. Leveraging the versatility and programmability of DNA, we tune the length of the complementary strand so that it "pushes" or "pulls" the dimer, inducing dramatic changes in the photophysics including lifetime differences observable at the ensemble and single-molecule level. The separable lifetimes, along with environmental sensitivity also observed in the photophysics, suggest that the Cy3-DX tile constructs could serve as fluorescence probes for multiplexed imaging. More generally, these constructs establish a framework for easily controllable photophysics via geometric changes to coupled chromophores, which could be applied in light-harvesting devices and molecular electronics.

MeSH terms

  • Carbocyanines / chemistry*
  • Carbocyanines / metabolism
  • Circular Dichroism
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Dimerization
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation


  • Carbocyanines
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • DNA