Self-assembly of genetically encoded DNA-protein hybrid nanoscale shapes

Journal: Science

Published: 2017-03-24

DOI: 10.1126/science.aam5488

Affiliations: 2

Authors: 2

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Research Highlight

Proteins help DNA get into shape

© PASIEKA/SPL/Science Photo Library/Getty

© PASIEKA/SPL/Science Photo Library/Getty

A new technique could enable researchers to engineer custom nanoscale structures within living cells.

The ability to build biological molecules of arbitrary shapes would be invaluable for basic research, medicine, and industry. Current techniques use single-stranded DNA molecules that fold into a desired shape with the help of molecular ‘staples’, but single-stranded DNA is not found in cells and the reactions require high temperatures.

To overcome these problems, researchers at the Technical University of Munich devised an approach using TAL proteins, which are produced by pathogenic bacteria binding to specific DNA sequences. Using custom double-stranded DNA sequences and TAL proteins engineered to bind to them, the team fabricated a range of nanoscale structures.

Since all of the components can be encoded in a genome and assembly occurs at near-physiological conditions at room temperature, this technique opens the possibility of bioengineering structures within cells, enabling researchers to probe and manipulate intracellular molecular processes.

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  1. Science 355, eaam5488 (2017). doi: 10.1126/science.aam5488
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Technical University of Munich (TUM), Germany 1