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Programming nanoparticle valence bonds with single-stranded DNA encoders


Nature has evolved strategies to encode information within a single biopolymer to program biomolecular interactions with characteristic stoichiometry, orthogonality and reconfigurability. Nevertheless, synthetic approaches for programming molecular reactions or assembly generally rely on the use of multiple polymer chains (for example, patchy particles). Here we demonstrate a method for patterning colloidal gold nanoparticles with valence bond analogues using single-stranded DNA encoders containing polyadenine (polyA). By programming the order, length and sequence of each encoder with alternating polyA/non-polyA domains, we synthesize programmable atom-like nanoparticles (PANs) with n-valence that can be used to assemble a spectrum of low-coordination colloidal molecules with different composition, size, chirality and linearity. Moreover, by exploiting the reconfigurability of PANs, we demonstrate dynamic colloidal bond-breaking and bond-formation reactions, structural rearrangement and even the implementation of Boolean logic operations. This approach may be useful for generating responsive functional materials for distinct technological applications.

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Fig. 1: Programmable atom equivalents fabrication using single-stranded DNA encoders.
Fig. 2: Schematic representation and TEM images of colloidal molecules.
Fig. 3: Schematic illustration and TEM images of colloidal oligomers.
Fig. 4: Colloidal molecules with anisotropy and chirality.
Fig. 5: Programmable colloidal reactions based on atom equivalents.
Fig. 6: Programmable single-particle nanocircuits based on atom equivalents.

Data availability

All the data that support the findings of this study are available within the paper and its Supplementary Information files, and from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.


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This work was financially supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (2016YFA0201200), National Natural Science Foundation of China (21834007, 21675167, 31571014, U1532119, 21775157, 11575278), the National Science Foundation (1531991), China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2015M580373, 2016T90396), the Open Large Infrastructure Research of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the LU JIAXI International team programme supported by CAS and the K.C. Wong Education Foundation, Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The authors are also thankful for the staff from BL19U2 beamline of National Facility for Protein Science Shanghai (NFPS) at Shanghai Synchrotron Radiation Facility (SSRF) for assistance during data collection.

Author information




C.F. and B.L.F. directed the research. C.F., G.Y. and J.L. conceived the study. G.Y., Q.L. and X.C. performed experiments. R.P.N., D.W., G.Y. and H.Y. performed cryogenic electron microscopy imaging and analysis. F.W. and H.P. performed CD theoretical calculations. Z.Q. performed MD simulations. X.L. and X.C. performed SAXS experiments. Z.G. and H.P. assisted in the preparation of polyA–AuNPs. X.L., X.Z. and L.W. assisted with the TEM imaging. G.Y., J.L., Q.L., B.L.F. and C.F. analysed data and wrote the paper.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Ben L. Feringa or Chunhai Fan.

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Supplementary Figures 1–30 and Tables 1 and 2.

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Yao, G., Li, J., Li, Q. et al. Programming nanoparticle valence bonds with single-stranded DNA encoders. Nat. Mater. 19, 781–788 (2020).

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