A robust DNA mechanical device controlled by hybridization topology

Nature. 2002 Jan 3;415(6867):62-5. doi: 10.1038/415062a.


Controlled mechanical movement in molecular-scale devices has been realized in a variety of systems-catenanes and rotaxanes, chiroptical molecular switches, molecular ratchets and DNA-by exploiting conformational changes triggered by changes in redox potential or temperature, reversible binding of small molecules or ions, or irradiation. The incorporation of such devices into arrays could in principle lead to complex structural states suitable for nanorobotic applications, provided that individual devices can be addressed separately. But because the triggers commonly used tend to act equally on all the devices that are present, they will need to be localized very tightly. This could be readily achieved with devices that are controlled individually by separate and device-specific reagents. A trigger mechanism that allows such specific control is the reversible binding of DNA strands, thereby 'fuelling' conformational changes in a DNA machine. Here we improve upon the initial prototype system that uses this mechanism but generates by-products, by demonstrating a robust sequence-dependent rotary DNA device operating in a four-step cycle. We show that DNA strands control and fuel our device cycle by inducing the interconversion between two robust topological motifs, paranemic crossover (PX) DNA and its topoisomer JX2 DNA, in which one strand end is rotated relative to the other by 180 degrees. We expect that a wide range of analogous yet distinct rotary devices can be created by changing the control strands and the device sequences to which they bind.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Base Pairing*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Isomerism
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force
  • Nanotechnology / instrumentation*
  • Nanotechnology / methods
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation*
  • Nucleic Acid Hybridization
  • Temperature


  • DNA