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Materials

DNA Origami Cranks Down Spatial Precision

Nanotechnology: Scaffolds made from DNA allow researchers to control the distance between molecules to less than an angstrom

by Matt Davenport
October 26, 2015 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 93, ISSUE 42

Nanotechnology researchers face an unending chorus of questions about how they will scale their work up. But Jonas J. Funke and Hendrik Dietz at the Technical University of Munich have been more curious if they could shrink the scales instead. The duo has developed DNA origami scaffolds that can control the position of molecules down to a precision of 0.04 nm (Nat. Nanotechnol. 2015, DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2015.240). These scaffolds set a spatial resolution record and could be used as rulers to probe chemical interactions or to help build synthetic enzymes, Dietz tells C&EN. Each DNA scaffold is a triangle with two rigid, intersecting legs that anchor different compounds. The third leg is an “adjuster helix” that allows the researchers to control the angle between the two rigid sides. By using different adjuster helices, the German team can finely tune the distance between the compounds on the rigid legs from 1.5 to 9 nm with more than 120 discrete spacing steps in between.

[+]Enlarge
Credit: Nat. Nanotechnol.
Gray lines show the fine spacing accessible to molecules (red, yellow, and blue points) using different adjuster helices in the new DNA scaffolds.
09342-scicon-DNAorigami.jpg
Credit: Nat. Nanotechnol.
Gray lines show the fine spacing accessible to molecules (red, yellow, and blue points) using different adjuster helices in the new DNA scaffolds.
TRIANGULATION
Credit: Nat. Nanotechnol.
This 3-D animation shows how the adjuster helix in a DNA triangle can be used to control the distance between molecules (shown in red, yellow, and blue) bound to the triangle’s rigid legs.
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