Nature 440, 297-302 (16 March 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04586; Received 7 September 2005; ; Accepted 12 January 2006

Folding DNA to create nanoscale shapes and patterns

Paul W. K. Rothemund1

'Bottom-up fabrication', which exploits the intrinsic properties of atoms and molecules to direct their self-organization, is widely used to make relatively simple nanostructures. A key goal for this approach is to create nanostructures of high complexity, matching that routinely achieved by 'top-down' methods. The self-assembly of DNA molecules provides an attractive route towards this goal. Here I describe a simple method for folding long, single-stranded DNA molecules into arbitrary two-dimensional shapes. The design for a desired shape is made by raster-filling the shape with a 7-kilobase single-stranded scaffold and by choosing over 200 short oligonucleotide 'staple strands' to hold the scaffold in place. Once synthesized and mixed, the staple and scaffold strands self-assemble in a single step. The resulting DNA structures are roughly 100 nm in diameter and approximate desired shapes such as squares, disks and five-pointed stars with a spatial resolution of 6 nm. Because each oligonucleotide can serve as a 6-nm pixel, the structures can be programmed to bear complex patterns such as words and images on their surfaces. Finally, individual DNA structures can be programmed to form larger assemblies, including extended periodic lattices and a hexamer of triangles (which constitutes a 30-megadalton molecular complex).

  1. Departments of Computer Science and Computation & Neural Systems, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125, USA

Correspondence to: Paul W. K. Rothemund1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to P.W.K.R. (Email:

Received 7 September 2005 | Accepted 12 January 2006


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