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FRANKFURT. Creating artificial structures from DNA is the objective of DNA nanotechnology. This new discipline, which combines biology, physics, chemistry and material science makes use of the ability of the natural DNA-strains' capacity for self assembly. Smileys or small boxes, measuring only 10s of nanometers (10 one-billionths of a meter) were created from DNA in a drop of water. Prof Alexander Heckel and his doctoral student Thorsten Schmidt from the "Cluster of Excellence for Macromolecular Complexes" at Goethe University were able to create two rings of DNA only 18 nanometers in size, and to interlock them like two links in a chain. Such a structure is called catenan, a term derived from the Latin word catena (chain). Schmidt, who got married during the time he was working on the nano-rings, believes that they are probably the world's smallest wedding rings.
From a scientific perspective, the structure is a milestone in the field of DNA nanotechnology, since the two rings of the catenan are, as opposed to the majority of the DNA nanoarchitechtures that have already been realized, not fixed formations, but depending on the environmental conditions freely pivotable. They are therefore suitable as components of molecular machines or of a molecular motor. "We still have a long way to go before DNA structures such as the catenan can be used in everyday items", says Prof Alexander Heckel, "but structures of DNA can, in the near future, be used to arrange and study proteins or other molecules that are too small for a direct manipulation, by means of auto-organization." This way, DNA nano-architectures could become a versatile tool for the nanometer world, to which access is difficult.
In the manufacture of DNA nano-architecture, the scientists take advantage of the pairing rules of the four DNA nucleobases
|Contact: Dr. Thorsten Schmidt|
Goethe University Frankfurt