"Nano-Oddities": Unusual Nucleic Acid Assemblies For DNA-Based Nanostructures And Nanodevices

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Accounts Of Chemical Research


DNA is an attractive polymer building material for nanodevices and nanostructures due to its ability for self-recognition and self-assembly. Assembly relies on the formation of base-specific interactions that allow strands to adopt structures in a controllable fashion. Most DNA-based higher order structures such as DNA cages, 2D and 3D DNA crystals, or origamis are based on DNA double helices stabilized by Watson Crick complementarity. A number of nonclassical pairing patterns are possible between or among DNA strands; these interactions result in formation of unusual structures that include, but are not limited to, G-quadruplexes, i-motifs, triplexes, and parallel-stranded duplexes. These structures create greater diversity of DNA-based building blocks for nanomaterials and have certain advantages over conventional duplex DNA, such as enhanced thermal stability and sensitivity to chemical stimuli. In this Account, we briefly introduce these alternative DNA structures and describe in detail their utilization in a variety of nanomaterials and nanomachines. The field of DNA "nano-oddities" emerged in the late 1990s when for the first time a DNA nanomachine was designed based on equilibrium between B-DNA and noncanonical, left-handed Z-DNA. Soon after, "proof-of-principle" DNA nanomachines based on several DNA "oddities" were reported. These machines were set in motion by the addition of complementary strands (a principle used by many B-DNA-based nanodevices), by the addition of selected cations, small molecules, or proteins, or by a change in pH or temperature. Today, we have fair understanding of the mechanism of action of these devices, excellent control over their performance, and knowledge of basic principles of their design. pH sensors and pH-controlled devices occupy a central niche in the field. They are usually based on i-motifs or triplex DNA, are amazingly simple, robust, and reversible, and create no waste apart from salt and water. G-quadruplex based nanostructures have unusually high stability, resist DNase and temperature, and display high selectivity toward certain cations. The true power of using these "nano-oddities" comes from combining them with existing nanomaterials (e.g., DNA origami, gold nanoparticles, graphene oxide, or mesoporous silica) and integrating them into existing mechanical and optoelectronic devices. Creating well-structured junctions for these interfaces, finding appropriate applications for the vast numbers of reported "nano-oddities", and proving their biological innocence comprise major challenges in the field. Our Account is not meant to be an all-inclusive review of the field but should give a reader a firm grasp of the current state of DNA nanotechnology based on noncanonical DNA structures.

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