Dynamic DNA nanotechnology using strand-displacement reactions

Nat Chem. 2011 Feb;3(2):103-13. doi: 10.1038/nchem.957.


The specificity and predictability of Watson-Crick base pairing make DNA a powerful and versatile material for engineering at the nanoscale. This has enabled the construction of a diverse and rapidly growing set of DNA nanostructures and nanodevices through the programmed hybridization of complementary strands. Although it had initially focused on the self-assembly of static structures, DNA nanotechnology is now also becoming increasingly attractive for engineering systems with interesting dynamic properties. Various devices, including circuits, catalytic amplifiers, autonomous molecular motors and reconfigurable nanostructures, have recently been rationally designed to use DNA strand-displacement reactions, in which two strands with partial or full complementarity hybridize, displacing in the process one or more pre-hybridized strands. This mechanism allows for the kinetic control of reaction pathways. Here, we review DNA strand-displacement-based devices, and look at how this relatively simple mechanism can lead to a surprising diversity of dynamic behaviour.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Base Pairing
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • Nanostructures / chemistry*
  • Nanotechnology / methods*
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Nucleic Acid Hybridization


  • DNA