Scientists from New York University, Purdue, and Argonne Lab created truly three dimensional DNA crystal structures which may end up being used in electronic components or as tools for identification of biomolecular compounds. Visualization of the structures via X-ray crystallography was done at the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Structural Biology Center at Advanced Photon Source in Argonne.
In the work reported in Nature…, the researchers expanded on the earlier efforts by taking advantage of DNA’s double-helix structure to create 3D crystals. The 2D crystals are very small—about 1/1000th of a millimeter—but the 3D crystals are between 1/4 and 1 millimeter, visible to the naked eye.
DNA’s double helices form when single strands of DNA—each containing four molecular components called bases, attached to backbone—self-assemble by matching up their bases. The researchers added sticky ends to these double helices, forming single-stranded overhangs to each double helix. Where these overhanging sticky ends were complementary, they bind together to link two double helices. This is a common technique used by genetic engineers, who apply it on a much larger scale. By linking together multiple helices through single-stranded sticky ends, the researchers were able to form a lattice-like structure that extends in six different directions, thereby yielding a 3D crystal.
The scientists also expect that they can organize biological macromolecules by attaching them to these crystals. This can help in the development of drugs because macromolecules arranged in crystals can be visualized by a technique known as x-ray crystallography. By adding drugs to these crystals, their interactions with these biological components can be visualized.
Press release: Chemists Reach from the Molecular to the Real World with Creation of 3D DNA Crystals…
Abstract in Nature: From molecular to macroscopic via the rational design of a self-assembled 3D DNA crystal
Flashback: Stereochemistry of DNA Structure Imaged with cryoEM