Synopsis: The Blueprint for DNA Origami

A new model of DNA is able to reproduce the observed features of self-organizing nanostructures in DNA origami.
Synopsis figure
J. M. Arbona et al., Phys. Rev. E (2012)

DNA provides the code for life, but it also can be a construction material for self-forming nanostructures. So-called DNA origami takes advantage of the highly selective interactions between strands of DNA to make arbitrary two- and three-dimensional shapes. To help understand the potential of this nanotechnology, a group has generalized previous theoretical work that treats DNA as a “stack of plates.” The adapted model, described in Physical Review E, is able to reproduce mechanical and elastic properties of DNA origami.

Researchers know how to synthesize strands of DNA that self-organize into ribbons, boxes, and other forms that may eventually be used as electronic templates and nanorobots. After being heated and then slowly cooled, the strands fold and weave together, controlled by the unique pairings between DNA bases. However, current models of DNA origami tend to approximate these base pair interactions by using an effective elastic theory for the connections between strands.

Jean Michel Arbona and his colleagues from the Institute of Chemistry and Biology of Membranes and Nano-objects (CBMN) in Pessac, France, have devised a new coarse-grain model that specifically accounts for base pair interactions. They assume each base pair is like a rigid ellipsoid, or “plate,” that swivels and tips with respect to its neighbors. This model was originally developed for “normal” double-stranded DNA, but Arbona and collaborators are now applying it to the multiple strands that intertwine in DNA origami. In addition to base pair interactions, the model includes the electrostatic repulsion coming from excess charge on the DNA molecule. Using Monte Carlo simulations, the team searched for stable configurations, which ended up reproducing DNA origami structures that have been observed in experiments. – Michael Schirber


More Announcements »

Subject Areas

Soft MatterBiological Physics

Previous Synopsis

Quantum Information

Finding Quantum Keys in Noisy Fibers

Read More »

Next Synopsis

Atomic and Molecular Physics

Laser Suppression of Noise

Read More »

Related Articles

Synopsis: In, Yet Out of Equilibrium
Statistical Physics

Synopsis: In, Yet Out of Equilibrium

An analysis of a popular model for active matter, like bacteria and buffalo herds, defines the conditions under which such systems can be described with the tools of equilibrium statistics. Read More »

Focus: Biological Cells Form Electric Circuits
Biological Physics

Focus: Biological Cells Form Electric Circuits

Cells that are electrically active and that also produce light for easy voltage monitoring could lead to new studies of heart arrhythmias and possibly bio-computing. Read More »

Focus: Detecting Femtonewton Forces in Water
Soft Matter

Focus: Detecting Femtonewton Forces in Water

A new technique builds on previous ones to detect forces in the femtonewton range in water, despite the constant jiggling of water molecules.   Read More »

More Articles