DNA Origami Voltage Sensors for Transmembrane Potentials with Single-Molecule Sensitivity

Sarah E. Ochmann, Himanshu Joshi, Ece Büber, Henri G. Franquelim, Pierre Stegemann, Barbara Saccà, Ulrich F. Keyser, Aleksei Aksimentiev, Philip Tinnefeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Signal transmission in neurons goes along with changes in the transmembrane potential. To report them, different approaches, including optical voltage-sensing dyes and genetically encoded voltage indicators, have evolved. Here, we present a DNA nanotechnology-based system and demonstrated its functionality on liposomes. Using DNA origami, we incorporated and optimized different properties such as membrane targeting and voltage sensing modularly. As a sensing unit, we used a hydrophobic red dye anchored to the membrane and an anionic green dye at the DNA to connect the nanostructure and the membrane dye anchor. Voltage-induced displacement of the anionic donor unit was read out by fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) changes of single sensors attached to liposomes. A FRET change of ∼5% for Δψ = 100 mV was observed. The working mechanism of the sensor was rationalized by molecular dynamics simulations. Our approach holds potential for an application as nongenetically encoded membrane sensors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8634-8641
Number of pages8
JournalNano letters
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 27 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • DNA origami
  • molecular dynamic simulations
  • single-molecule FRET
  • transmembrane potential
  • voltage imaging
  • voltage sensor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Bioengineering
  • General Materials Science


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