Confinement effects on DNA hybridization in electrokinetic micro- and nanofluidic systems
Spatial confinement, within cells or micro‐ and nanofabricated devices, impacts the conformation and binding kinetics of biomolecules. Understanding the role of spatial confinement on molecular behavior is important for comprehending diverse biological phenomena, as well as for designing biosensors. Specifically, the behavior of molecular binding under an applied electric field is of importance in the development of electrokinetic biosensors. Here, we investigate whether confinement of DNA oligomers in capillary electrophoresis impacts the binding kinetics of the DNA. To infer the role of confinement on hybridization dynamics, we perform capillary electrophoresis measurements on DNA oligomers within micro‐ and nanochannels, then apply first‐order reaction dynamics theory to extract kinetic parameters from electropherogram data. We find that the apparent dissociation constants at the nanoscale (i.e., within a 100 nm channel) are lower than at the microscale (i.e., within a 1 μm channel), indicating stronger binding with increased confinement. This confirms, for the first time, that confinement‐based enhancement of DNA hybridization persists under application of an electric field.