DNA origami using "tiles" not "staples"

2 Mar 2010

The group of Yan Liu and Hao Yan has discovered a way to scale up DNA origami using tiles not staples to pin the DNA into place. Their method has great potential for providing cheap access to complicated nanostructures. The research was recently published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition and is highlighted this week in Nature Materials. It is titled "A Route to Scale Up DNA Origami Using DNA Tiles as Folding Staples." Read this paper online.

Originally developed by Paul Rothemund at the California Institute of Technology, DNA origami is made from long strands of viral DNA. To fold it up, small pieces of "helper" DNA are used - which are pre-coded to interact, (via Watson-Crick base pairing), at specific points on the strand. These can be configured to weave the DNA strand back and forth, generating a pattern. "One of the practical limitations of DNA origami has been the size," Rothemund explains. "We have been limited to 2D structures roughly 100 nm in size, due to the length of the scaffold strand that is used. The reason for this is because it is difficult to get long single-stranded scaffolds longer than around 7000-8000 nucleotides, inexpensively and in high yield." Now, Hao Yan and Yan Liu have developed a way to make DNA origami four times the size of that achieved using the Rothemund technique. Instead of using many short DNA strands to pin together the DNA, the team instead used square tiles - each of which was also made from DNA origami. As proof of the concept, the team produced "bricks" consisting of 5x5 and 7x8 arrangements of tiles, reaching up to 200nm in size. "Whatever size we can achieve with the basic technique, Yan and Liu"s technique seems likely to buy us an extra factor of scale," Rothemund says. "Importantly, this increase in size should bring us into the range of state of the art optical lithography, which will allow us to start enabling the use of this process."

William Shih, who works on DNA origami at Harvard University, US, is also impressed by the work. "I think this is a terrific idea, and I"m confident that such a hierarchical templating approach will play a key role in allowing us to build increasingly complex devices on the nanoscale," he says. "One application might possibly be a nano-breadboard for assembling nanoscale circuits." Hao Yan and Yan Liu are faculty members in the department of chemistry and biochemistry, and also Center for Single Molecule Biophysics at The Biodesign Institute at ASU. They are also Subtask 2 investigators in the Center for Bio-Inspired Solar Fuel Production led by Professor Devens Gust at Arizona State University. The Center is supported by the Department of Energy, Energy Frontier Research Centers program. The Center goal is fundamental research into developing a system that uses sunlight to split water and generate hydrogen fuel. Rationally designed DNA nanostructures are being investigated as scaffolds to position short peptides that will organize a water oxidation complex with respect to artificial photosynthesis.

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