| The Scientist » |
Researchers have devised multiple ways to build nanoscale structures from the nucleic acid.
By Arun Richard Chandrasekaran | July 17, 2017
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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.
BRANCHED DNA JUNCTIONS
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.
DNA SELF ASSEMBLY
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 CHANDRASEKARAN
ERIK 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