Correlative Super-Resolution and Atomic Force Microscopy of DNA Nanostructures and Characterization of Addressable Site Defects

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To bring real-world applications of DNA nanostructures to fruition, advanced microscopy techniques are needed to shed light on factors limiting the availability of addressable sites. Correlative microscopy, where two or more microscopies are combined to characterize the same sample, is an approach to overcome the limitations of individual techniques, yet it has seen limited use for DNA nanotechnology. We have developed an accessible strategy for high resolution, correlative DNA-based points accumulation for imaging in nanoscale topography (DNA-PAINT) super-resolution and atomic force microscopy (AFM) of DNA nanostructures, enabled by a simple and robust method to selectively bind DNA origami to cover glass. Using this technique, we examined addressable “docking” sites on DNA origami to distinguish between two defect scenarios–structurally incorporated but inactive docking sites, and unincorporated docking sites. We found that over 75% of defective docking sites were incorporated but inactive, suggesting unincorporated strands played a minor role in limiting the availability of addressable sites. We further explored the effects of strand purification, UV irradiation, and photooxidation on availability, providing insight on potential sources of defects and pathways toward improving the fidelity of DNA nanostructures.