UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Mechanical Flexibility of DNA: A Quintessential Tool for DNA Nanotechnology Saran, Runjhun; Wang, Yong; Li, Isaac T. S.


The mechanical properties of DNA have enabled it to be a structural and sensory element in many nanotechnology applications. While specific base-pairing interactions and secondary structure formation have been the most widely utilized mechanism in designing DNA nanodevices and biosensors, the intrinsic mechanical rigidity and flexibility are often overlooked. In this article, we will discuss the biochemical and biophysical origin of double-stranded DNA rigidity and how environmental and intrinsic factors such as salt, temperature, sequence, and small molecules influence it. We will then take a critical look at three areas of applications of DNA bending rigidity. First, we will discuss how DNA’s bending rigidity has been utilized to create molecular springs that regulate the activities of biomolecules and cellular processes. Second, we will discuss how the nanomechanical response induced by DNA rigidity has been used to create conformational changes as sensors for molecular force, pH, metal ions, small molecules, and protein interactions. Lastly, we will discuss how DNA’s rigidity enabled its application in creating DNA-based nanostructures from DNA origami to nanomachines.

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