The capability of de novo design of molecules with precise weights, geometries, and functions provides an important avenue not only for scientific explorations, but also for technological applications. Owing largely to its rationalizable design strategies, supermolecular self-assembly with DNA has emerged as a powerful approach in design, and assemble custom-shaped intricate three-dimensional nanostructures with molecular weights up to several megadaltons.The basic principle of DNA-tile self-assembly is to design the building blocks — DNA strands — that can self-assemble to prescribed shaped through Watson-Crick base-pairing. We have used DNA-tile and DNA-origami self-assembly to build both discrete 2D/3D objects and extended 2D crystals. These DNA-assembly methods are the cornerstones of our research.
The creation of nanometre-sized structures that exhibit controllable motions and functions is a critical step towards building nanomachines. Recent developments in the field of DNA nanotechnology have begun to address these goals, demonstrating complex static or dynamic nanostructures made of DNA. Here we have designed and constructed a rhombus-shaped DNA origami ‘nanoactuator’ that uses mechanical linkages to copy distance changes induced on one half (‘the driver’) to be propagated to the other half (‘the mirror’). By combining this nanoactuator with split enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP), we have constructed a DNA–protein hybrid nanostructure that demonstrates tunable fluorescent behaviours via long-range allosteric regulation. In addition, the nanoactuator can be used as a sensor that responds to specific stimuli, including changes in buffer composition and the presence of restriction enzymes or specific nucleic acids.
Information relay at the molecular level is an essential phenomenon in numerous chemical and biological processes, such as intricate signaling cascades. One key challenge in synthetic molecular self-assembly is to construct artificial structures that imitate these complex behaviors in controllable systems. We demonstrated prescribed, long-range information relay in an artificial molecular array assembled from modular DNA structural units. The dynamic DNA molecular array exhibits transformations with programmable initiation, propagation, and regulation. The transformation of the array can be initiated at selected units and then propagated, without addition of extra triggers, to neighboring units and eventually the entire array. The specific information pathways by which this transformation occurs can be controlled by altering the design of individual units and the arrays.
We show hierarchical assembly of plas- monic toroidal metamolecules that exhibit tailored optical activity in the visible spectral range. Each metamolecule consists of four identical origami-templated helical building blocks. Such toroidal metamolecules show a stronger chiroptical response than monomers and dimers of the helical building blocks. Enantiomers of the plasmonic structures yield opposite circular dichroism spectra. Experimental results agree well with the theoretical simulations. We also show that given the circular symmetry of the structures s distinct chiroptical response along their axial orientation can be uncovered via simple spin-coating of the metamolecules on substrates. Our work provides a new strategy to create plasmonic chiral platforms with sophisticated nanoscale architectures for potential applications such as chiral sensing using chemically based assembly systems.