Chemists Reach from the Molecular to the Real World with Creation of 3D DNA Crystals


New York University chemists have created three-dimensional DNA structures, a breakthrough bridging the molecular world to the world where we live.

NYU Chemistry Professor Nadrian Seeman and his colleagues created 3D DNA structures by using single-stranded  sticky ends  that link double helices in DNA triangles that point in different directions.
NYU Chemistry Professor Nadrian Seeman and his colleagues created 3D DNA structures by using single-stranded sticky ends that link double helices in DNA triangles that point in different directions.

New York University chemists have created three-dimensional DNA structures, a breakthrough bridging the molecular world to the world where we live. The work, reported in the latest issue of the journal Nature, also has a range of potential industrial and pharmaceutical applications, such as the creation of nanoelectronic components and the organization of drug receptor targets to enable illumination of their 3D structures.

While scientists, including those involved in this study, have previously designed and built crystal structures, these compositions have been two-dimensional—that is, their axes are on a single plane— and are not the most complete representation of crystals.

To address this limitation, the research team, headed by NYU Chemistry Professor Nadrian Seeman, sought to design and build three-dimensional DNA crystals—a process that requires significant spatial control of the 3D structure of matter. The project also included researchers from Purdue University’s Department of Chemistry and the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois.

To do this, the researchers created DNA crystals by making synthetic sequences of DNA that have the ability to self-assemble into a series of 3D triangle-like motifs. The creation of the crystals was dependent on putting “sticky ends”—small cohesive sequences on each end of the motif—that attach to other molecules and place them in a set order and orientation. The make-up of these sticky ends allows the motifs to attach to each other in a programmed fashion.

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