Author(s): Tatiana Globus, Dwight Woolard, Thomas W Crowe
Significant progress has been achieved during the last several years relating to experimental and theoretical aspects of terahertz (or submillimetre wave) Fourier transform spectroscopy of biological macromolecules. However, previous research in this spectral range has been focused on bio-materials in solid state since it was common opinion that high water absorption will obscure the spectral signatures of the bio-molecules in solutions. At the same time, the biological functions of DNA and proteins take place in water solutions. In this work, the spectra of DNA samples have been measured in liquid phase (gel) over the spectral range 10–25 cm−1 and compared with spectra obtained from solid films. The results demonstrate that there is very little interference between the spectral features of the material under test and the water background except for the band around 18.6 cm−1. Multiple resonances due to low frequency vibrational modes within biological macromolecules in solutions are unambiguously demonstrated. Higher level of sensitivity and higher sharpness of vibrational modes are observed in the liquid environment in comparison with the solid phase, with the width of spectral lines 0.3–0.5 cm−1. Gel sample spectra are found to be polarization-dependent. The ability of THz spectroscopy to characterize samples in liquid phase could be very important since it permits examination of DNA interactions in real (wet) samples. One demonstrated example of practical importance is the ability to discriminate between spectral patterns for native and denaturated DNA.