Biomod/2014/idea

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Project idea: Building the world´s smallest car


DNA is not only a polymer which stores genetic information. Because of its complementary nucleobases DNA provides the opportunity to build complex structures – so called DNA origami – and use them as a template to investigate interactions of molecules, proteins and nanoparticles or as vehicle to transport cargo. Our team designs a nanoscale car consisting of DNA which we called Nanoscooter (from 'Autoscooter', german for 'bumper car'). This Nanoscooter becomes motile on mica surfaces by adapting the kind and concentration of cations in the buffer. Directed movement is achieved by the of repulsion of oxygen gas which is produced at platinum nanoparticles tethered to the back of the Nanoscooter. The shape of the DNA origami is confirmed by atomic force microscopy, while the movement of the car on a flat mica surface is illustrated by fluorescence microscopy using fluorescent beads. This type of DNA origami can be used for directed transport of different components. In the future this technology could be used for the supply in nanoscale factories or as a lithographic pen by controlling the location of nanoscale catalysis.

To realize our final goal of controlled movement of the Nanoscooter, we assigned several stopovers:

- DNA origami design and verification:
Using the caDNAno software, a three-dimensional DNA origami structure is designed. Folding conditions are adjusted (e.g. magnesium concentration and folding time) and folding is verified using gel electrophoresis and atomic force microscopy (AFM).

- Pt-particle functionalization and attachment to the Nanoscooter:
Pt-nanoparticles are functionalized with single stranded DNA. Functionalization is controlled using dynamic light scattering (DLS). The Pt-nanoparticles are attached to the Nanoscooter and successful attachment is verified via gel electrophoresis.

- Fluorescence labeling:
To achieve bright and stable fluorescence labeling, a fluorescent bead is attached to the DNA origami using StreptAvidin coated fluorescent beads and in the Nanoscooter incorporated biotin anchors.

- Random movement:
To observe random diffusion on mica surfaces, the suitable cation concentrations have to be determined. Movement is visualized on the AFM by time-lapse imaging and on the fluorescence microscope.

- Active movement:
Directed movement is shown by adding the H2O2 fuel and checking for differences in speed in comparison to the random diffusion.













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