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A DNA-based molecular motor that can navigate a network of tracks


Synthetic molecular motors can be fuelled by the hydrolysis1,2,3,4 or hybridization5,6,7,8,9,10,11 of DNA. Such motors can move autonomously1,2,3,4,7,11 and programmably12, and long-range transport has been observed on linear tracks13,14. It has also been shown that DNA systems can compute8,15,16,17,18. Here, we report a synthetic DNA-based system that integrates long-range transport and information processing. We show that the path of a motor through a network of tracks containing four possible routes can be programmed using instructions that are added externally or carried by the motor itself. When external control is used we find that 87% of the motors follow the correct path, and when internal control is used 71% of the motors follow the correct path. Programmable motion will allow the development of computing networks, molecular systems that can sort and process cargoes according to instructions that they carry, and assembly lines19,20 that can be reconfigured dynamically in response to changing demands.

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Figure 1: Programmed route on branching tracks.
Figure 2: Externally controlled DNA motor on a single-layer track.
Figure 3: Controlled motion on a two-layer track.
Figure 4: Internally programmed motion on a single-layer track.


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This work was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/G037930/1), the Clarendon Fund, the Oxford–Australia Scholarship Fund, the CREST of JST and a Grant-in-Aid for Science Research from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan.

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Experiments were designed by S.W. with input from J.B. and A.J.T. Ensemble fluorescence experiments were carried out by S.W. in the laboratory of A.J.T. AFM experiments were carried out by M.E., Y.K. and K.H. in the laboratory of H.S. The manuscript was written by S.W., J.B., H.S. and A.J.T.

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Correspondence to Hiroshi Sugiyama or Andrew J. Turberfield.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Wickham, S., Bath, J., Katsuda, Y. et al. A DNA-based molecular motor that can navigate a network of tracks. Nature Nanotech 7, 169–173 (2012).

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