Composing RNA Nanostructures from a Syntax of RNA Structural Modules

Nano Lett. 2017 Nov 8;17(11):7095-7101. doi: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.7b03842. Epub 2017 Oct 25.


Natural stable RNAs fold and assemble into complex three-dimensional architectures by relying on the hierarchical formation of intricate, recurrent networks of noncovalent tertiary interactions. These sequence-dependent networks specify RNA structural modules enabling orientational and topological control of helical struts to form larger self-folding domains. Borrowing concepts from linguistics, we defined an extended structural syntax of RNA modules for programming RNA strands to assemble into complex, responsive nanostructures under both thermodynamic and kinetic control. Based on this syntax, various RNA building blocks promote the multimolecular assembly of objects with well-defined three-dimensional shapes as well as the isothermal folding of long RNAs into complex single-stranded nanostructures during transcription. This work offers a glimpse of the limitless potential of RNA as an informational medium for designing programmable and functional nanomaterials useful for synthetic biology, nanomedicine, and nanotechnology.

Keywords: RNA architectonics; RNA folding; RNA nanotechnology; RNA self-assembly; nanoparticles; nanostructures; tectoRNAs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Models, Molecular
  • Nanostructures / chemistry*
  • Nanostructures / ultrastructure
  • Nanotechnology / methods*
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • RNA / chemistry*
  • RNA Folding


  • RNA