The research, led by A/Prof. Lawrence Lee, has resulted in the design of a highly accurate nanoscale ‘container’ to pick up, carry and drop off proteins and pieces of DNA. They have developed their system using the biochemical principles of DNA base pairing and that of chemical competition to make cargo bind securely and yet come off when necessary.
The team used transmission electron microscopy at our UNSW Sydney facility to visualise the nanoscale structures. These have a thinner central ‘cargo bay’ and thicker end blocks where the attachment sites are located.
DNA strands bind to each other through the precise stickiness of their bases such that A always sticks to T, and G to C. This makes it possible to design the base sequence of a new piece of DNA in such a way as to make it fold up into very defined shapes. This is the basis of DNA ‘origami’, an evolving synthetic biology technique that is now being used to design molecules with new and specific functions.
The new cargo carrier, and the way it allows cargo to stick and release, will form a basis for further development of synthetic biology solutions to a wide range of applications.