, Volume 29, Issue 2-3, pp 89-100

THz-Spectroscopy of Biological Molecules

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Abstract

The terahertz frequency absorption spectraof DNA molecules reflect low-frequencyinternal helical vibrations involvingrigidly bound subgroups that are connectedby the weakest bonds, including thehydrogen bonds of the DNA base pairs,and/or non-bonded interactions. Althoughnumerous difficulties make the directidentification of terahertz phonon modes inbiological materials very challenging, ourresearch has shown that such measurementsare both possible and fruitful. Spectra ofdifferent DNA samples reveal a large numberof modes and a reasonable level ofsequence-specific uniqueness. In an attemptto show that the long wavelength absorptionfeatures are intrinsic properties ofbiological materials determined by phononmodes, a normal mode analysis has been usedto predict the absorption spectra ofpolynucleotide RNA Poly[G]-Poly[C]. Directcomparison demonstrated a correlationbetween calculated and experimentallyobserved spectra of the RNA polymers, thusconfirming that the fundamental physicalnature of the observed resonance structureis caused by the internal vibration modesin the macromolecules.In this work we demonstrate results fromFourier-Transform Infrared (FTIR)spectroscopy of DNA macromolecules andrelated biological materials in theterahertz frequency range. Carefulattention was paid to the possibility ofinterference or etalon effects in thesamples, and phenomena were clearlydifferentiated from the actual phononmodes. In addition, we studied thedependence of transmission spectra ofaligned DNA and polynucleotide film sampleson molecule orientation relative to theelectromagnetic field, showing the expectedchange in mode strength as a function ofsample orientation. Further, the absorptioncharacteristics were extracted from thetransmission data using the interferencespectroscopy technique, and a stronganisotropy of terahertz characteristics wasdemonstrated.