Placing molecules with Bohr radius resolution using DNA origami

Nat Nanotechnol. 2016 Jan;11(1):47-52. doi: 10.1038/nnano.2015.240. Epub 2015 Oct 19.


Molecular self-assembly with nucleic acids can be used to fabricate discrete objects with defined sizes and arbitrary shapes. It relies on building blocks that are commensurate to those of biological macromolecular machines and should therefore be capable of delivering the atomic-scale placement accuracy known today only from natural and designed proteins. However, research in the field has predominantly focused on producing increasingly large and complex, but more coarsely defined, objects and placing them in an orderly manner on solid substrates. So far, few objects afford a design accuracy better than 5 nm, and the subnanometre scale has been reached only within the unit cells of designed DNA crystals. Here, we report a molecular positioning device made from a hinged DNA origami object in which the angle between the two structural units can be controlled with adjuster helices. To test the positioning capabilities of the device, we used photophysical and crosslinking assays that report the coordinate of interest directly with atomic resolution. Using this combination of placement and analysis, we rationally adjusted the average distance between fluorescent molecules and reactive groups from 1.5 to 9 nm in 123 discrete displacement steps. The smallest displacement step possible was 0.04 nm, which is slightly less than the Bohr radius. The fluctuation amplitudes in the distance coordinate were also small (±0.5 nm), and within a factor of two to three of the amplitudes found in protein structures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Linking Reagents / chemistry
  • Crystallization / instrumentation
  • Crystallization / methods
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • DNA / ultrastructure*
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Failure Analysis
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry
  • Micromanipulation / instrumentation*
  • Micromanipulation / methods
  • Molecular Probe Techniques / instrumentation
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Nanoparticles / ultrastructure*
  • Nanotechnology / instrumentation*
  • Nanotechnology / methods


  • Cross-Linking Reagents
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • DNA