DNA as a powerful tool for morphology control, spatial positioning, and dynamic assembly of nanoparticles

Li Huey Tan, Hang Xing, Yi Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


ConspectusSeveral properties of nanomaterials, such as morphologies (e.g., shapes and surface structures) and distance dependent properties (e.g., plasmonic and quantum confinement effects), make nanomaterials uniquely qualified as potential choices for future applications from catalysis to biomedicine. To realize the full potential of these nanomaterials, it is important to demonstrate fine control of the morphology of individual nanoparticles, as well as precise spatial control of the position, orientation, and distances between multiple nanoparticles. In addition, dynamic control of nanomaterial assembly in response to multiple stimuli, with minimal or no error, and the reversibility of the assemblies are also required. In this Account, we summarize recent progress of using DNA as a powerful programmable tool to realize the above goals. First, inspired by the discovery of genetic codes in biology, we have discovered DNA sequence combinations to control different morphologies of nanoparticles during their growth process and have shown that these effects are synergistic or competitive, depending on the sequence combination. The DNA, which guides the growth of the nanomaterial, is stable and retains its biorecognition ability. Second, by taking advantage of different reactivities of phosphorothioate and phosphodiester backbone, we have placed phosphorothioate at selective positions on different DNA nanostructures including DNA tetrahedrons. Bifunctional linkers have been used to conjugate phosphorothioate on one end and bind nanoparticles or proteins on the other end. In doing so, precise control of distances between two or more nanoparticles or proteins with nanometer resolution can be achieved. Furthermore, by developing facile methods to functionalize two hemispheres of Janus nanoparticles with two different DNA sequences regioselectively, we have demonstrated directional control of nanomaterial assembly, where DNA strands with specific hybridization serve as orthogonal linkers. Third, by using functional DNA that includes DNAzyme, aptamer, and aptazyme, dynamic control of assemblies of gold nanoparticles, quantum dots, carbon nanotubes, and iron oxide nanoparticles in response to one or more stimuli cooperatively have been achieved, resulting in colorimetric, fluorescent, electrochemical, and magnetic resonance signals for a wide range of targets, such as metal ions, small molecules, proteins, and intact cells. Fourth, by mimicking biology, we have employed DNAzymes as proofreading units to remove errors in nanoparticle assembly and further used DNAzyme cascade reactions to modify or repair DNA sequences involved in the assembly. Finally, by taking advantage of different affinities of biotin and desthiobiotin toward streptavidin, we have demonstrated reversible assembly of proteins on DNA origami.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1881-1890
Number of pages10
JournalAccounts of chemical research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 17 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry


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