Design, control, and applications of DNA nanomechanical devices

Structural DNA nanotechnology is a rapidly emerging field with exciting potential for applications such as single molecule sensing, drug delivery, and manipulating molecular components. However, realizing the functional potential of DNA nanomachines, and ultimately nanorobots, requires the ability to design dynamic mechanical behavior such as complex motion, conformational dynamics, or force generation. Our lab has developed approaches to design and construct DNA nanostructures with programmable 1D, 2D, and 3D motion as well as dynamic nanostructures with programmed or externally controlled conformational dynamics. We have also recently developed methods to manipulate dynamic DNA nanodevices via external magnetic fields. This approach relies on coupling the motion of micron-scale magnetic beads to nanoscale DNA machines via a long mechanical lever arm made from an array of highly stiff DNA origami structures. We demonstrated the ability to drive continuous or oscillating rotational motions of nanoscale devices up to several Hz. Moving forward, we aim to develop devices where nanoscale dynamic behavior (i.e. motion, conformational distributions, and kinetics) can be exploited to probe physical properties or manipulate nanoscale components or molecular interactions in real time. I will also highlight two ongoing projects in our lab implementing DNA nanodevices to probe the structure and dynamics of nucleosomes and to engineer cell surface functions such as intercellular adhesion and biomolecule sensing.