Nature 452, 198-201 (13 March 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature06597; Received 10 July 2007; Accepted 18 December 2007

Hierarchical self-assembly of DNA into symmetric supramolecular polyhedra

Yu He1, Tao Ye1, Min Su2, Chuan Zhang1, Alexander E. Ribbe1, Wen Jiang2 & Chengde Mao1

  1. Department of Chemistry,
  2. Markey Center for Structural Biology and Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907, USA

Correspondence to: Chengde Mao1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to C.M. (Email: mao@purdue.edu).

DNA is renowned for its double helix structure and the base pairing that enables the recognition and highly selective binding of complementary DNA strands. These features, and the ability to create DNA strands with any desired sequence of bases, have led to the use of DNA rationally to design various nanostructures and even execute molecular computations1, 2, 3, 4. Of the wide range of self-assembled DNA nanostructures reported, most are one- or two-dimensional5, 6, 7, 8, 9. Examples of three-dimensional DNA structures include cubes10, truncated octahedra11, octohedra12 and tetrahedra13, 14, which are all comprised of many different DNA strands with unique sequences. When aiming for large structures, the need to synthesize large numbers (hundreds) of unique DNA strands poses a challenging design problem9, 15. Here, we demonstrate a simple solution to this problem: the design of basic DNA building units in such a way that many copies of identical units assemble into larger three-dimensional structures. We test this hierarchical self-assembly concept with DNA molecules that form three-point-star motifs, or tiles. By controlling the flexibility and concentration of the tiles, the one-pot assembly yields tetrahedra, dodecahedra or buckyballs that are tens of nanometres in size and comprised of four, twenty or sixty individual tiles, respectively. We expect that our assembly strategy can be adapted to allow the fabrication of a range of relatively complex three-dimensional structures.


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