DNA has nano building in hand

March 24/31, 2004

Researchers from Ludwig Maximilians University in Germany have built a simple molecular machine from DNA that can bind to and release single molecules of a specific type of protein.

The DNA hand can be made to select any of many types of proteins, and could eventually be used to construct materials or machines molecule-by-molecule.

The researchers used DNA branch migration, a method that allows a DNA nanostructure to switch between several arrangements of its parts, to construct the DNA hand. In one configuration, the structure contains an open sequence of bases that binds to a specific protein, and so can grab that type of protein. A second configuration does not contain the open sequence, and so drops the protein.

The rearrangements are reversible, allowing the tiny machine to repeatedly grab and drop a molecule of a specific type of protein. DNA aptamers, or strands that bind to specific molecules, can be selected from a pool of DNA sequences, making it possible to construct a DNA hand that binds to any type of protein, according to the researchers.

The researchers demonstrated the DNA hand by having it repeatedly grab and drop molecules of the protein Thrombin.

The DNA hand could be used in simple nano construction applications in two to five years, and in more advanced applications in five to ten years, according to the researchers. The work is scheduled to appear in an upcoming issue of Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

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