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Molecular excitons play a foundational role in chromophore aggregates found in light-harvesting systems and offer potential applications in engineered excitonic systems. Controlled aggregation of chromophores to promote exciton delocalization has been achieved by covalently tethering chromophores to deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) scaffolds. Although many studies have documented changes in the optical properties of chromophores upon aggregation using DNA scaffolds, more limited work has investigated how structural modifications of DNA via bridged nucleotides and chromophore covalent attachment impact scaffold stability as well as the configuration and optical behavior of attached aggregates. Here we investigated the impact of two types of bridged nucleotides, LNA and BNA, as a structural modification of duplex DNA-templated cyanine (Cy5) aggregates. The bridged nucleotides were incorporated in the domain of one to four Cy5 chromophores attached between adjacent bases of a DNA duplex. We found that bridged nucleotides increase the stability of DNA scaffolds carrying Cy5 aggregates in comparison with natural nucleotides in analogous constructs. Exciton coupling strength and delocalization in Cy5 aggregates were evaluated via steady-state absorption, circular dichroism, and theoretical modeling. Replacing natural nucleotides with bridged nucleotides resulted in a noticeable increase in the coupling strength (≥10 meV) between chromophores and increased H-like stacking behavior (i.e., more face-to-face stacking). Our results suggest that bridged nucleotides may be useful for increasing scaffold stability and coupling between DNA templated chromophores.

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This is an open access article published under an ACS AuthorChoice License, which permits copying and redistribution of the article or any adaptations for non-commercial purposes. This document was originally published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry B by the American Chemical Society. Copyright restrictions may apply.