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  1. An attractive strategy to improve the energy transfer properties of synthetic dye networks is to optimize the excitonic coupling between the dyes to increase energy transfer rates. To explore this possibility, we investigate the use of J-like cyanine dye dimers (Cy3 and Cy5 dimers) on DNA duplexes as energy transfer relays in molecular photonic wires. This approach is based on using the collective emission dipole of a J-dimer to enhance the FRET rate between the dimer relay and a remote acceptor dye. Experimentally, we find that in room temperature aqueous buffer conditions the dimer relay provided no benefit in energy transfer quantum yield relative to a simple monomer relay. Further investigation led us to determine that enhanced non-radiative relaxation, non-ideal dye orientation within the dimer, and unfavorable dye orientation between the dimer and the acceptor dye limit energy transfer through the dimer relay. We hypothesized that non-radiative relaxation was the largest factor, and demonstrated this by placing the sample in a viscous solvent or cooling the sample, which dramatically improved energy transfer through the J-like dimer relay. Similar to how the formation of DNA-templated J-like dimers has improved, the practical use of J-like dimers to optimize energy transfer quantum efficiency will require improvements in the ability to control orientation between dyes to reach its full potential. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 18, 2025
  2. Nanoarchitectural control of matter is crucial for next-generation technologies. DNA origami templates are harnessed to accurately position single molecules; however, direct single molecule evidence is lacking regarding how well DNA origami can control the orientation of such molecules in three-dimensional space, as well as the factors affecting control. Here, we present two strategies for controlling the polar (θ) and in-plane azimuthal (ϕ) angular orientations of cyanine Cy5 single molecules tethered on rationally-designed DNA origami templates that are physically adsorbed (physisorbed) on glass substrates. By using dipolar imaging to evaluate Cy5′s orientation and super-resolution microscopy, the absolute spatial orientation of Cy5 is calculated relative to the DNA template. The sequence-dependent partial intercalation of Cy5 is discovered and supported theoretically using density functional theory and molecular dynamics simulations, and it is harnessed as our first strategy to achieve θ control for a full revolution with dispersion as small as ±4.5°. In our second strategy, ϕ control is achieved by mechanically stretching the Cy5 from its two tethers, being the dispersion ±10.3° for full stretching. These results can in principle be applied to any single molecule, expanding in this way the capabilities of DNA as a functional templating material for single-molecule orientation control. The experimental and modeling insights provided herein will help engineer similar self-assembling molecular systems based on polymers, such as RNA and proteins. 
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  3. Exciton delocalization plays a prominent role in the photophysics of molecular aggregates, ultimately governing their particular function or application. DNA is a compelling scaffold in which to template molecular aggregates and promote exciton delocalization. As individual dye molecules are the basis of exciton delocalization in molecular aggregates, their judicious selection is important. Motivated by their excellent photostability and spectral properties, here we examine the ability of squaraine dyes to undergo exciton delocalization when aggregated via a DNA Holliday junction (HJ) template. A commercially available indolenine squaraine dye was chosen for the study given its strong structural resemblance to Cy5, a commercially available cyanine dye previously shown to undergo exciton delocalization in DNA HJs. Three types of DNA-dye aggregate configurations—transverse dimer, adjacent dimer, and tetramer—were investigated. Signatures of exciton delocalization were observed in all squaraine-DNA aggregates. Specifically, strong blue shift and Davydov splitting were observed in steady-state absorption spectroscopy and exciton-induced features were evident in circular dichroism spectroscopy. Strongly suppressed fluorescence emission provided additional, indirect evidence for exciton delocalization in the DNA-templated squaraine dye aggregates. To quantitatively evaluate and directly compare the excitonic Coulombic coupling responsible for exciton delocalization, the strength of excitonic hopping interactions between the dyes were obtained by simultaneous fitting the experimental steady-state absorption and CD spectra via a Holstein-like Hamiltonian in which, following the theoretical approach of Kühn, Renger, and May, the dominant vibrational mode is explicitly considered. The excitonic hopping strength within indolenine squaraines was found to be comparable to that of the analogous Cy5 DNA-templated aggregate. The squaraine aggregates adopted primarily an H-type (dyes oriented parallel to each other) spatial arrangement. Extracted geometric details of dye mutual orientation in the aggregates enabled close comparison of aggregate configurations and the elucidation of the influence of dye angular relationship on excitonic hopping interactions in squaraine aggregates. These results encourage the application of squaraine-based aggregates in next generation systems driven by molecular excitons. 
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  4. null (Ed.)