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Chemistry In Pictures

Chemistry in Pictures: Crease

by Laurel Oldach
July 11, 2023

A series of microscope images with 50 nm scale bar, each showing a different folded variant from a square starting DNA wireframe. Each micrograph also has a schematic cartoon showing how folds to an original flat piece of DNA “paper” can generate the structure in the micrograph.
Credit: Nature

If you’ve ever tried paper folding, perhaps you’ve run into a common challenge: the smaller the project, the harder it is to achieve a sharp fold. This was no issue for researchers at Seoul National University, who reported in Nature the development of a DNA origami system that can, like regular origami, be folded into a panoply of shapes (2023, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-023-06181-7).

First, the researchers synthesized the origami “paper,” a self-assembling DNA scaffold about 240 nm to a side, built from four monomeric tiles. Each tile has what the researchers call a handle, two stretches of DNA (pink and orange markings, top) on either side of a desired crease (dashed line). Next they added a glue molecule that can bind by base-pairing to both halves of the handle, bringing them together and forcing the scaffold molecule to crease into a new configuration. This series of atomic force micrographs (bottom) show how, by combining monomers with different handles, the researchers can generate origami papers that can fold into many different shapes.

The researchers also developed a way to unfold their origami: a releaser DNA sequence, which pairs with the glue DNA more strongly than the scaffold does, could restore the scaffold to its unfolded starting state.

Credit: Nature

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