DNA Construction

Researchers have devised multiple ways to build nanoscale structures from the nucleic acid.

Jul 16, 2017
Arun Richard Chandrasekaran

DNA AS BRICKS AND MORTAR

The straightforward and consistent pairing of DNA’s nucleotide bases make the molecule a reliable building material. Depending on the sequence, DNA strands can crossover to adjacent helices, creating a branch point. Researchers can develop such connecting pieces, called branched DNA junctions, with 4, 5, 6, 8, or 12 arms, projecting from a central hub at various angles in three-dimensional space.

DNA CROSSOVER


 

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BRANCHED DNA JUNCTIONS

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STRUCTURAL GLUE
The ends of the molecules can be designed to contain single-stranded “sticky ends” that enable researchers to encode the predictable selfassembly of larger nanostructures.
 

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DNA SELF ASSEMBLY

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DNA ORIGAMI

By folding a long, single-stranded DNA scaffold using short, single-stranded “staples,” researchers can build any shape they like. For example, researchers recently designed a three-dimensional bunny, using computer algorithms to determine the folding pathways and DNA sequences that would be required to create the desired shape.

ARUN RICHARD CHANDRASEKARANERIK BENSON & BJÖRN HÖGBERG. ATTRIBUTION 4.0 INTERNATIONAL (CC BY 4.0)

MULTIDIMENSIONAL DNA ARRAYS

Researchers can also design small DNA motifs that self-assemble into lattices. Shown below is a “tensegrity triangle” motif with three double helical edges (represented as cylinders) that contain complementary sticky ends along one, two, or all three of its edges, leading to assembly of one-, two-, or three-dimensional arrays.

DIAGRAM: ARUN RICHARD CHANDRASEKARAN; © ISTOCK.COM/SHUOSHU

 

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