(ORDO NEWS) — DNA is a multifunctional biomolecule that has unique properties and performs a number of functions.
A person was able to supplement the range of its capabilities with artificial ones – and now a nano-sized motor based on DNA origami technology and capable of self-assembly has been added to them.
DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is one of the key biomolecules whose role is to store and copy genetic information. However, the functions it performs are actually quite diverse : DNA can actively participate in the regulation of gene expression, change its structure and interact with proteins.
In addition, scientists and engineers were able to give the DNA molecule and other, artificial features. For example, the ability to catalyze chemical reactions (DNA winters), store digital information (DNA flash drive technology ), or serve as the basis for extremely diverse, dynamic, and at the same time reliable nanostructures.
We are talking about the so-called DNA origami : such nanotechnology allows the synthesis of many specific molecules that bind each other according to the principle of complementarity and, as a result, spontaneously form complex aggregates.
DNA chains are more authentic in this case, they serve as the basis to which short molecules are attached.
This technology is more than 15 years old, and it has already helped to obtain a number of unique objects – from spectacular nanosmileys to effective means for targeted drug delivery.
Previously, evolution has created many natural nanomotors – these are proteins that perform the functions of molecular machines like ATP synthase, which uses a kind of ” carousel ” in order to convert the potential difference on the biomembrane into the energy of chemical bonds.
Another example is “walking proteins” like kinesin, which can purposefully move along microtubules, dragging payloads along with them.
Creating such artificial molecular engines with conventional methods is quite difficult, so the authors of a new article in Nature resorted to bioengineering and DNA origami.
“We have developed this assembly technology over the years and now we can create complex objects with high precision – say, molecular switches or hollow containers that capture viral particles.
And if you get DNA strands with the right sequence, these objects will assemble themselves, ” explained Heinrich Dietz (Hendrik Dietz), head of the new study from the University of Munich (Germany).
The following technical characteristics of the nanoengine are given. It consists of three parts: base, platform and rotary arm. The base is approximately 40 nanometers high and is chemically bonded to a glass substrate.
The rotor arm is about 500 nanometers long and is movably attached to the base. Between them is a platform that has barriers that restrict the movement of the lever – this forces it to deform when turning. In fact, we are talking about a molecular ratchet.
Movement occurs due to fluctuating electrical forces acting on the DNA engine. The authors call the capabilities of this device unprecedented: the limiting torque is ten piconewtons per nanometer of lever length. The nanomotor can be turned on and off, and its speed and direction of rotation can be controlled.
The authors are convinced that the molecular engine assembled from DNA origami will find many technical applications, including for conducting controlled chemical reactions.
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