Engineering DNA Crystals toward Studying DNA-Guest Molecule Interactions

J Am Chem Soc. 2023 Mar 1;145(8):4853-4859. doi: 10.1021/jacs.3c00081. Epub 2023 Feb 15.


Sequence-selective recognition of DNA duplexes is important for a wide range of applications including regulating gene expression, drug development, and genome editing. Many small molecules can bind DNA duplexes with sequence selectivity. It remains as a challenge how to reliably and conveniently obtain the detailed structural information on DNA-molecule interactions because such information is critically needed for understanding the underlying rules of DNA-molecule interactions. If those rules were understood, we could design molecules to recognize DNA duplexes with a sequence preference and intervene in related biological processes, such as disease treatment. Here, we have demonstrated that DNA crystal engineering is a potential solution. A molecule-binding DNA sequence is engineered to self-assemble into highly ordered DNA crystals. An X-ray crystallographic study of molecule-DNA cocrystals reveals the structural details on how the molecule interacts with the DNA duplex. In this approach, the DNA will serve two functions: (1) being part of the molecule to be studied and (2) forming the crystal lattice. It is conceivable that this method will be a general method for studying drug/peptide-DNA interactions. The resulting DNA crystals may also find use as separation matrices, as hosts for catalysts, and as media for material storage.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • DNA* / chemistry
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation


  • DNA