DNA origami – stable and accessible

Researchers led by Amelie Heuer-Jungemann at the MPI of Biochemistry have succeeded in creating a stable shell for DNA origami structures, that still offers room for molecular interactions.

April 26, 2023

Martinsried. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Biochemistry and Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) Munich have made a significant breakthrough in the field of nanotechnology. They have developed a new method, by which structures folded from DNA are made ultra-stable through a protective silica coating, but are still accessible for interaction with other molecules. This novel method uses DNA origami, where long single-stranded DNA molecules are folded into the desired shape by using shorter ones as a template. Using this technique, a wide variety of shapes, only a few nanometers in size, can be built with high precision. The results were published in the journal Advanced Materials.

Amelie Heuer-Jungemann and her team use DNA origami as a template for tiny silica structures. To produce these, the desired origami structure is first "folded" from DNA strands. A protective layer of silica is then placed around the DNA. The silica ensures that the origami remains stable. This process can be used to make complex silica structures at the nanoscale, which have many potential applications. For example, they can be used as building blocks for the creation of complex devices and sensors, or for targeted drug delivery systems.

While, among others, Amelie Heuer-Jungemann and her team had previously shown that it is possible to create silica nanostructures using DNA origami, it has not yet been demonstrated that in these structures the DNA can still interact with other molecules. Through such interactions, the structures are able to, for example, bind to biomedical agents, fluorescent dyes or functional proteins. In collaboration with a research team from the LMU, led by Viktorija Glembockyte, the researchers have now been able to prove that the accessibility of the nanostructures remains, even after they are coated with silica. The new approach of Amelie Heuer-Jungemann’s team is based on the finding that single-stranded DNA, both, outside and inside the origami is not covered by silica, unlike the rest of the origami. Thus, these single-stranded DNA pieces remain accessible for other, complementary DNA strands.

Lea Wassermann, first author of the study, says: "Our work presents the first fully addressable silica nanostructure, where we also have complete control over size and shape. We believe that this new approach could have a significant impact on the future development of new materials. In particular, however, we see great potential for application in biomedicine and biocatalysis."


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