The optical properties of a family of duplex DNA conjugates possessing from 1 to 11 A:T base pairs and covalently attached stilbene chromophores at both ends have been investigated. As few as from two to four base bairs are needed to establish base-pair absorption and circular dichroism spectra similar to those of longer oligomers. The stilbene chromophores exhibit exciton-coupled circular dichroism, which can be observed even with 11 intervening base pairs, a distance of ca. 40 Å. The dependence of the sign and amplitude of these spectra reveals the ability of B-DNA to serve as a helical ruler.
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