Structure and conformational dynamics of scaffolded DNA origami nanoparticles

Nucleic Acids Res. 2017 Jun 20;45(11):6284-6298. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkx378.


Synthetic DNA is a highly programmable nanoscale material that can be designed to self-assemble into 3D structures that are fully determined by underlying Watson-Crick base pairing. The double crossover (DX) design motif has demonstrated versatility in synthesizing arbitrary DNA nanoparticles on the 5-100 nm scale for diverse applications in biotechnology. Prior computational investigations of these assemblies include all-atom and coarse-grained modeling, but modeling their conformational dynamics remains challenging due to their long relaxation times and associated computational cost. We apply all-atom molecular dynamics and coarse-grained finite element modeling to DX-based nanoparticles to elucidate their fine-scale and global conformational structure and dynamics. We use our coarse-grained model with a set of secondary structural motifs to predict the equilibrium solution structures of 45 DX-based DNA origami nanoparticles including a tetrahedron, octahedron, icosahedron, cuboctahedron and reinforced cube. Coarse-grained models are compared with 3D cryo-electron microscopy density maps for these five DNA nanoparticles and with all-atom molecular dynamics simulations for the tetrahedron and octahedron. Our results elucidate non-intuitive atomic-level structural details of DX-based DNA nanoparticles, and offer a general framework for efficient computational prediction of global and local structural and mechanical properties of DX-based assemblies that are inaccessible to all-atom based models alone.

MeSH terms

  • Cryoelectron Microscopy
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • DNA / ultrastructure
  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Nanoparticles / ultrastructure
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation


  • DNA