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Self-assembly of three-dimensional prestressed tensegrity structures from DNA

Nature Nanotechnology volume 5, pages 520524 (2010) | Download Citation

Abstract

Tensegrity, or tensional integrity, is a property of a structure indicating a reliance on a balance between components that are either in pure compression or pure tension for stability1,2. Tensegrity structures exhibit extremely high strength-to-weight ratios and great resilience, and are therefore widely used in engineering, robotics and architecture3,4. Here, we report nanoscale, prestressed, three-dimensional tensegrity structures in which rigid bundles of DNA double helices resist compressive forces exerted by segments of single-stranded DNA that act as tension-bearing cables. Our DNA tensegrity structures can self-assemble against forces up to 14 pN, which is twice the stall force of powerful molecular motors such as kinesin or myosin5,6. The forces generated by this molecular prestressing mechanism can be used to bend the DNA bundles or to actuate the entire structure through enzymatic cleavage at specific sites. In addition to being building blocks for nanostructures, tensile structural elements made of single-stranded DNA could be used to study molecular forces, cellular mechanotransduction and other fundamental biological processes.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank O. Hallatschek, R. Neher, H. Dietz and S. Douglas for helpful discussions and advice. This work was funded by the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, and Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD; T.L.), Swedish Science Council (Vetenskapsrådet) Fellowship (B.H.) and Claudia Adams Barr Program Investigator and NIH New Innovator (1DP2OD004641-01; W.M.S.) grants.

Author information

Author notes

    • Tim Liedl

    Present address: Center for Nanoscience, CeNS, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Fakultät für Physik, Geschwister Scholl Platz 1, D-80539, München, Germany

Affiliations

  1. Department of Cancer Biology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA

    • Tim Liedl
    • , Björn Högberg
    •  & William M. Shih
  2. Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA

    • Tim Liedl
    • , Björn Högberg
    •  & William M. Shih
  3. Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA

    • Tim Liedl
    • , Björn Högberg
    • , Jessica Tytell
    • , Donald E. Ingber
    •  & William M. Shih
  4. Vascular Biology Program, Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA

    • Jessica Tytell
    •  & Donald E. Ingber
  5. Department of Pathology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA

    • Jessica Tytell
    •  & Donald E. Ingber
  6. Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA

    • Jessica Tytell
    •  & Donald E. Ingber

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Contributions

T.L., D.E.I. and W.M.S. conceived and designed the research. T.L. designed the DNA shapes. T.L., B.H. and J.T. performed the experiments. T.L. and B.H. analysed the data, and T.L., B.H., D.E.I. and W.M.S. co-wrote the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to William M. Shih.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2010.107

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