Delivery of biomolecules to plants relies on Agrobacterium infection or biolistic particle delivery, the former of which is amenable only to DNA delivery. The difficulty in delivering functional biomolecules such as RNA to plant cells is due to the plant cell wall, which is absent in mammalian cells and poses the dominant physical barrier to biomolecule delivery in plants. DNA nanostructure-mediated biomolecule delivery is an effective strategy to deliver cargoes across the lipid bilayer of mammalian cells; however, nanoparticle-mediated delivery without external mechanical aid remains unexplored for biomolecule delivery across the cell wall in plants. Herein, we report a systematic assessment of different DNA nanostructures for their ability to internalize into cells of mature plants, deliver siRNAs, and effectively silence a constitutively expressed gene in Nicotiana benthamiana leaves. We show that nanostructure internalization into plant cells and corresponding gene silencing efficiency depends on the DNA nanostructure size, shape, compactness, stiffness, and location of the siRNA attachment locus on the nanostructure. We further confirm that the internalization efficiency of DNA nanostructures correlates with their respective gene silencing efficiencies but that the endogenous gene silencing pathway depends on the siRNA attachment locus. Our work establishes the feasibility of biomolecule delivery to plants with DNA nanostructures and both details the design parameters of importance for plant cell internalization and also assesses the impact of DNA nanostructure geometry for gene silencing mechanisms.
Keywords: DNA nanotechnology; DNA origami; RNA delivery; plant biotechnology; siRNA gene silencing.