DNA-imprinted polymer nanoparticles with monodispersity and prescribed DNA-strand patterns


As colloidal self-assembly increasingly approaches the complexity of natural systems, an ongoing challenge is to generate non-centrosymmetric structures. For example, patchy, Janus or living crystallization particles have significantly advanced the area of polymer assembly. It has remained difficult, however, to devise polymer particles that associate in a directional manner, with controlled valency and recognition motifs. Here, we present a method to transfer DNA patterns from a DNA cage to a polymeric nanoparticle encapsulated inside the cage in three dimensions. The resulting DNA-imprinted particles (DIPs), which are ‘moulded’ on the inside of the DNA cage, consist of a monodisperse crosslinked polymer core with a predetermined pattern of different DNA strands covalently ‘printed’ on their exterior, and further assemble with programmability and directionality. The number, orientation and sequence of DNA strands grafted onto the polymeric core can be controlled during the process, and the strands are addressable independently of each other.

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Figure 1: Design and working principle of patterning process.
Figure 2: Characterization of ‘printed’ particle.
Figure 3: Rebinding experiment of ‘printed’ particle 6x to Cb.
Figure 4: Rebinding experiment to the wrong scaffold and molecular simulation.
Figure 5: Controlled valency of DNA-imprinted particles.
Figure 6: Self-assembly of ‘printed’ particle 6x into dimers and trimers.
Figure 7: Self-assembly of ‘printed’ particle 6x into tetramers.


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The authors acknowledge the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the Centre for Self-Assembled Chemical Structures (CSACS), the Qatar Research Foundation (project no. NPRP 5-1505-1-250) and the Canada Research Chairs Program for financial support. H.F.S. is a Cottrell Scholar of the Research Corporation.

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H.F.S. and T.T. designed the project. T.T. mainly contributed to the production of experimental results. C.L. and J.L. performed computer modelling molecular dynamics simulations of the cube/DNA-polymer. M.B., H.S.B. and V.T. synthesized the hydrophobic unit and its phosphoramidite derivative. All authors agreed to all the content of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Hanadi F. Sleiman.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Trinh, T., Liao, C., Toader, V. et al. DNA-imprinted polymer nanoparticles with monodispersity and prescribed DNA-strand patterns. Nature Chem 10, 184–192 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/nchem.2893

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