DNA materials: Bridging nanotechnology and biotechnology

Dayong Yang, Mark R. Hartman, Thomas L. Derrien, Shogo Hamada, Duo An, Kenneth G. Yancey, Ru Cheng, Minglin Ma, Dan Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

214 Citations (Scopus)


ConspectusIn recent decades, DNA has taken on an assortment of diverse roles, not only as the central genetic molecule in biological systems but also as a generic material for nanoscale engineering. DNA possesses many exceptional properties, including its biological function, biocompatibility, molecular recognition ability, and nanoscale controllability. Taking advantage of these unique attributes, a variety of DNA materials have been created with properties derived both from the biological functions and from the structural characteristics of DNA molecules. These novel DNA materials provide a natural bridge between nanotechnology and biotechnology, leading to far-ranging real-world applications.In this Account, we describe our work on the design and construction of DNA materials. Based on the role of DNA in the construction, we categorize DNA materials into two classes: substrate and linker. As a substrate, DNA interfaces with enzymes in biochemical reactions, making use of molecular biology's "enzymatic toolkit". For example, employing DNA as a substrate, we utilized enzymatic ligation to prepare the first bulk hydrogel made entirely of DNA. Using this DNA hydrogel as a structural scaffold, we created a protein-producing DNA hydrogel via linking plasmid DNA onto the hydrogel matrix through enzymatic ligation. Furthermore, to fully make use of the advantages of both DNA materials and polymerase chain reaction (PCR), we prepared thermostable branched DNA that could remain intact even under denaturing conditions, allowing for their use as modular primers for PCR. Moreover, via enzymatic polymerization, we have recently constructed a physical DNA hydrogel with unique internal structure and mechanical properties. As a linker, we have used DNA to interface with other functional moieties, including gold nanoparticles, clay minerals, proteins, and lipids, allowing for hybrid materials with unique properties for desired applications. For example, we recently designed a DNA-protein conjugate as a universal adapter for protein detection. We further demonstrate a diverse assortment of applications for these DNA materials including diagnostics, protein production, controlled drug release systems, the exploration of life evolution, and plasmonics.Although DNA has shown great potential as both substrate and linker in the construction of DNA materials, it is still in the initial stages of becoming a well-established and widely used material. Important challenges include the ease of design and fabrication, scaling-up, and minimizing cost. We envision that DNA materials will continue to bridge the gap between nanotechnology and biotechnology and will ultimately be employed for many real-world applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1902-1911
Number of pages10
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Jun 17


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