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, 47 (6), 1691-9

Wireframe and Tensegrity DNA Nanostructures


Wireframe and Tensegrity DNA Nanostructures

Stephanie S Simmel et al. Acc Chem Res.


CONSPECTUS: Not only can triangulated wireframe network and tensegrity design be found in architecture, but it is also essential for the stability and organization of biological matter. Whether the scaffolding material is metal as in Buckminster Fuller's geodesic domes and Kenneth Snelson's floating compression sculptures or proteins like actin or spectrin making up the cytoskeleton of biological cells, wireframe and tensegrity construction can provide great stability while minimizing the material required. Given the mechanical properties of single- and double-stranded DNA, it is not surprising to find many variants of wireframe and tensegrity constructions in the emerging field of DNA nanotechnology, in which structures of almost arbitrary shape can be built with nanometer precision. The success of DNA self-assembly relies on the well-controlled hybridization of complementary DNA strands. Consequently, understanding the fundamental physical properties of these molecules is essential. Many experiments have shown that double-stranded DNA (in its most commonly occurring helical form, the B-form) behaves in a first approximation like a relatively stiff cylindrical beam with a persistence length of many times the length of its building blocks, the base pairs. However, it is harder to assign a persistence length to single-stranded DNA. Here, normally the Kuhn length is given, a measure that describes the length of individual rigid segments in a freely jointed chain. This length is on the order of a few nucleotides. Two immediate and important consequences arise from this high flexibility: single-stranded DNA is almost always present in a coiled conformation, and it behaves, just like all flexible polymers in solution, as an entropic spring. In this Account, we review the relation between the mechanical properties of DNA and design considerations for wireframe and tensegrity structures built from DNA. We illustrate various aspects of the successful evolution of DNA nanotechnology starting with the construction of four-way junctions and then allude to simple geometric objects such as the wireframe cube presented by Nadrian Seeman along with a variety of triangulated wireframe constructions. We examine DNA tensegrity triangles that self-assemble into crystals with sizes of several hundred micrometers as well as prestressed DNA origami tensegrity architecture, which uses single-stranded DNA with its entropic spring behavior as tension bearing components to organize stiff multihelix bundles in three dimensions. Finally, we discuss emerging applications of the aforementioned design principles in diverse fields such as diagnostics, drug delivery, or crystallography. Despite great advances in related research fields like protein and RNA engineering, DNA self-assembly is currently the most accessible technique to organize matter on the nanoscale, and we expect many more exciting applications to emerge.

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