Due to the central role of DNA, its interactions with inorganic salts and small organic molecules are important for understanding various fundamental cellular processes in living systems, deciphering the mechanism of many diseases related to DNA damages, and discovering or designing inhibitors and drugs targeting DNA. However, there is still a need for improved sensitivity to detect these interactions, especially in situations where expensive sophisticated equipment is not available. Here we report our development and demonstration of bent DNA bows for amplifying, sensing, and detecting the interactions of 14 inorganic salts and small organic molecules with DNA. With the bent DNA bows, these interactions were easily visualized and quantified in gel electrophoresis, which were difficult to measure without bending. In addition, the strength of the interactions of DNA with the various salts/molecules were quantified using the modified Hill equation. This work highlights the amplification effects of the bending elastic energy stored in the DNA bows and the potential use of the DNA bows for quantitatively measuring DNA interactions with small molecules as simple economic methods; it may also pave the way for exploiting the bent DNA bows for other applications such as monitoring water quality and screening DNA-targeting molecules and drugs.
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