Backbone charge transport in double-stranded DNA

Roman Zhuravel, Haichao Huang, Georgia Polycarpou, Savvas Polydorides, Phani Motamarri, Liat Katrivas, Dvir Rotem, Joseph Sperling, Linda A. Zotti, Alexander B. Kotlyar, Juan Carlos Cuevas, Vikram Gavini, Spiros S. Skourtis, Danny Porath*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Understanding charge transport in DNA molecules is a long-standing problem of fundamental importance across disciplines1,2. It is also of great technological interest due to DNA’s ability to form versatile and complex programmable structures. Charge transport in DNA-based junctions has been reported using a wide variety of set-ups2–4, but experiments so far have yielded seemingly contradictory results that range from insulating5–8 or semiconducting9,10 to metallic-like behaviour11. As a result, the intrinsic charge transport mechanism in molecular junction set-ups is not well understood, which is mainly due to the lack of techniques to form reproducible and stable contacts with individual long DNA molecules. Here we report charge-transport measurements through single 30-nm-long double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) molecules with an experimental set-up that enables us to address individual molecules repeatedly and to measure the current–voltage characteristics from 5 K up to room temperature. Strikingly, we observed very high currents of tens of nanoamperes, which flowed through both homogeneous and non-homogeneous base-pair sequences. The currents are fairly temperature independent in the range 5–60 K and show a power-law decrease with temperature above 60 K, which is reminiscent of charge transport in organic crystals. Moreover, we show that the presence of even a single discontinuity (‘nick’) in both strands that compose the dsDNA leads to complete suppression of the current, which suggests that the backbones mediate the long-distance conduction in dsDNA, contrary to the common wisdom in DNA electronics2–4.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)836-840
Number of pages5
JournalNature Nanotechnology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2020

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© 2020, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.


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