Professor Tae-Young Yoon’s research team from the Department of Physics at KAIST has developed a new method to form DNA nanostructures by using magnetic tweezers to observe and to induce the formation of the structure in real time.
Unlike traditional designs of "DNA origami" which relies on thermal or chemical annealing methods, the new technology utilizes a completely different dynamic in DNA folding. This allows the folding to be done within only ten minutes.
Developed in 2006, the "DNA origami" allows a long skeleton of DNA to be folded into an arbitrary structure by using small stapler DNA pieces. This has been a prominent method in DNA nanotechnology.
However, the traditional technology which adopts thermal processes could not control the DNA formation during the folding because every interaction among DNAs occurs simultaneously. Thus, the thermal processes, which take dozens of hours to complete, had to be repeated multiple times in order to find the optimal condition.
The research team designed a DNA folding using uni-molecular magnetic tweezers that applied force to a single DNA molecule while measuring the state of the DNA. Through this technology, they were able to induce the formation of DNA nanostructure and observe it at the same time.
During high temperature heat treatment, the first stage of conventional thermal processes, the internal structure of the long skeleton DNA untangles. To induce such state, after attaching one side of the skeleton DNA to the surface of glass and the other side to a magnetic material, the team unfolded the internal structure of the DNA by pulling the two sides apart with magnetic force.
Unlike the conventional thermal processes, this method lets the stapler DNA swiftly adhere to the skeleton DNA within a minute because the sites are revealed at room temperature.
After the stapler pieces connected to the skeleton, the team removed the magnetic force. Next, the structure folded through self-assembly as the stapler DNAs stuck to different sites on the skeleton DNA.
Professor Yoon said, “With the existing thermal methods, we could not differentiate the reactions of the DNA because the response of each DNA pieces mutually interacted with each other.” He added that “Using the magnetic tweezers, we were able to sort the process of DNA nanostructure formation into a series of reactions of DNA molecules that are well known, and shorten the time taken for formation in only ten minutes.”
He commented, “This nanostructure formation method will enable us to create more intricate and desirable DNA nanostructures by programming the folding of DNA origami structures.”
Conducted by Dr. Woori Bae under the guidance of Professor Yoon, the research findings were published online in the December 4th issue of Nature Communications.
Figure 1: Uni-molecular magnetic tweezers orchestrating the DNA nanostructure formation
Figure 2: The evolution of DNA nanostructure formation using magnetic tweezers. The DNA nanostructure with a 21-nanometer size was formed in about eight minutes.
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