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Non-equilibrium dynamics of DNA nanotubes

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Disciplines
  • Biology
  • Computer Science
  • Mathematics
  • Physics

Abstract

Can the fundamental processes that underlie molecular biology be understood and simulated by DNA nanotechnology? The early development of DNA nanotechnology by Ned Seeman was driven by the desire to find a solution to the protein crystallization problem. Much of the later development of the field was also driven by envisioned applications in computing and nanofabrication. While the DNA nanotechnology community has assembled a versatile tool kit with which DNA nanostructures of considerable complexity can be assembled, the application of this tool kit to other areas of science and technology is still in its infancy. This dissertation reports on the construction of non-equilibrium DNA nanotube dynamic to probe molecular processes in the areas of hydrodynamics and cytoskeletal behavior. As the first example, we used DNA nanotubes as a molecular probe for elongational flow measurement in different micro-scale flow settings. The hydrodynamic flow in the vicinity of simple geometrical objects, such as a rigid DNA nanotube, is amenable to rigorous theoretical investigation. We measured the distribution of elongational flows produced in progressively more complex settings, ranging from the vicinity of an orifice in a microfluidic chamber to within a bursting bubble of Pacific ocean water. This information can be used to constrain theories on the origin of life in which replication involves a hydrodynamically driven fission process, such as the coacervate fission proposed by Oparin. A second theme of this dissertation is the bottom-up construction of a \textit{de novo} artificial cytoskeleton with DNA nanotubes. The work reported here encompasses structural, locomotion, and control aspects of non-equilibrium cytoskeletal behavior. We first measured the kinetic parameters of DNA nanotube assembly and tested the accuracy of the existing polymerization models in the literature. Toward recapitulation of non-equilibrium cytoskeletal dynamics, we coupled the polymerization of DNA nanotubes with an irreversible energy consumption reaction, analogous to nucleotide hydrolysis in actin and microtubule polymerization. Finally, we integrated the DNA strand displacement circuits with DNA nanotube polymerization to achieve programmable kinetic control of behavior within artificial cytoskeleton. Our synthetic approach may provide insights into natural cytoskeleton dynamics, such as minimal architectural or reaction mechanism requirements for non-equilibrium behaviors including treadmilling and dynamic instability. The outgrowth of DNA nanotechnology beyond its own boundaries, serving as a general model system for biomolecular dynamics, can lead to an understanding of molecular processes that advances both basic and applied sciences.

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