Nanomechanical molecular devices made of DNA origami

Acc Chem Res. 2014 Jun 17;47(6):1742-9. doi: 10.1021/ar400328v. Epub 2014 Apr 29.


CONSPECTUS: Eight years have passed since the striking debut of the DNA origami technique ( Rothemund, P. W. K. Nature 2006 , 440 , 297 - 302 ), in which long single-stranded DNA is folded into a designed nanostructure, in either 2D or 3D, with the aid of many short staple strands. The number of proposals for new design principles for DNA origami structures seems to have already reached a peak. It is apparent that DNA origami study is now entering the second phase of creating practical applications. The development of functional nanomechanical molecular devices using the DNA origami technique is one such application attracting significant interest from researchers in the field. Nanomechanical DNA origami devices, which maintain the characteristics of DNA origami structures, have various advantages over conventional DNA nanomachines. Comparatively high assembly yield, relatively large size visible via atomic force microscopy (AFM) or transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and the capability to assemble multiple functional groups with precision using multiple staple strands are some of the advantages of the DNA origami technique for constructing sophisticated molecular devices. This Account describes the recent developments of such nanomechanical DNA origami devices and reviews the emerging target of DNA origami studies. First, simple "dynamic" DNA origami structures with transformation capability, such as DNA origami boxes and a DNA origami hatch with structure control, are briefly summarized. More elaborate nanomechanical DNA origami devices are then reviewed. The first example describes DNA origami pinching devices that can be used as "single-molecule" beacons to detect a variety of biorelated molecules, from metal ions at the size of a few tens of atomic mass number units to relatively gigantic proteins with a molecular mass greater than a hundred kilodaltons, all on a single platform. Clamshell-like DNA nanorobots equipped with logic gates can discriminate different cell lines, open their shell, and bind to their target. An intelligent DNA origami "sheath" can mimic the function of suppressors in a transcription regulation system to control the expression of a loaded gene. DNA origami "rolls" are created to construct precisely arranged plasmonic devices with metal nanoparticles. All of their functions are derived from their nanomechanical movement, which is programmable by designing the DNA sequence or by using the significant repository of technical achievements in nucleic acid chemistry. Finally, some studies on detailed structural parameters of DNA origami or their mechanical properties in nanoscale are discussed, which may be useful and inspiring for readers who intend to design new nanomechanical DNA origami devices.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • DNA, Single-Stranded / chemistry
  • Equipment Design
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Gold
  • Mechanical Phenomena
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force
  • Nanostructures / chemistry*
  • Nanotechnology / methods*
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Proteins / chemistry
  • Robotics / instrumentation
  • Robotics / methods
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • DNA, Single-Stranded
  • Proteins
  • Gold
  • DNA