Self-assembled structures and devices

Group Leaders:

The DNA group are based in the Clarendon Laboratory at the University of Oxford and are part of Oxford Biological Physics. Our backgrounds range from physics and chemistry to biochemistry but now we are all using DNA as a material for bionanotechnology. Recent work includes the design and characterization of DNA tetrahedra, which can serve as rigid building blocks and as molecular cages; the development of DNA motors and fuels; and the application of DNA lattices to protein structure determination. More details on this can be found on the research page while there is a brief introduction to DNA nanotechnology below.

DNA is a wonderful material with which to build. It can act as a molecular glue, as the fuel for molecular engines, and as a structural material in self-assembling nanostructures. It is the ability of DNA to store information that is the key to its use: the interactions that hold a nanostructure together are encoded in the base sequences of the component oligonucleotides. Sections that are designed to bind together are given complementary sequences; other sections are given sequences that are as different as possible to minimize unintended interactions. At its simplest, building with DNA is like building a Lego model by designing the bricks such that they can only fit together in one way - and then putting them in a bag and shaking it.

Figure 1. Four strands can be designed so that when the bases hybridise they form a DNA tetrahedron.

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