Programmed self-assembly of strands of nucleic acid has proved highly effective for creating a wide range of structures with desired shapes1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25. A particularly successful implementation is DNA origami, in which a long scaffold strand is folded by hundreds of short auxiliary strands into a complex shape9,14,15,16,18,19,20,21,25. Modular strategies are in principle simpler and more versatile and have been used to assemble DNA2,3,4,5,8,10,11,12,13,17,23 or RNA7,22 tiles into periodic3,4,7,22 and algorithmic5 two-dimensional lattices, extended ribbons10,12 and tubes4,12,13, three-dimensional crystals17, polyhedra11 and simple finite two-dimensional shapes7,8. But creating finite yet complex shapes from a large number of uniquely addressable tiles remains challenging. Here we solve this problem with the simplest tile form, a ‘single-stranded tile’ (SST) that consists of a 42-base strand of DNA composed entirely of concatenated sticky ends and that binds to four local neighbours during self-assembly12. Although ribbons and tubes with controlled circumferences12 have been created using the SST approach, we extend it to assemble complex two-dimensional shapes and tubes from hundreds (in some cases more than one thousand) distinct tiles. Our main design feature is a self-assembled rectangle that serves as a molecular canvas, with each of its constituent SST strands—folded into a 3 nm-by-7 nm tile and attached to four neighbouring tiles—acting as a pixel. A desired shape, drawn on the canvas, is then produced by one-pot annealing of all those strands that correspond to pixels covered by the target shape; the remaining strands are excluded. We implement the strategy with a master strand collection that corresponds to a 310-pixel canvas, and then use appropriate strand subsets to construct 107 distinct and complex two-dimensional shapes, thereby establishing SST assembly as a simple, modular and robust framework for constructing nanostructures with prescribed shapes from short synthetic DNA strands.
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We thank S. Chandarasekaran, X. Lim, W. Sun and R. Conturie for technical assistance; A. Marblestone, R. Barish, W. Shih, Y. Ke, E. Winfree, S. Woo, P. Rothemund and D. Woods for discussions; and J. Aliperti for help with preparation of the draft. This work was funded by Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program Award N000141110914, Office of Naval Research Grant N000141010827, NSF CAREER Award CCF1054898, NIH Director’s New Innovator Award 1DP2OD007292 and a Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering Faculty Startup Fund (to P.Y.).
The file contains sequence information of the structures in the paper. The sequence information is identical as the first part of Supplementary Information S7, but is presented in Excel format, and is easier to retrieve for a reader who wants to repeat the experiments described in the paper.