Molecular Horizons Seminar - Dr Lawrence Lee

In 1982 Ned Seeman proposed that DNA could be used as a building material rather than for its genetic code, because of DNA’s well-known base pairing rules and structural properties. Thus, the field of DNA nanotechnology was born. DNA nanotechnology has rapidly grown and today, it is possible to self-assemble near arbitrary nanoscale shapes and structures with controllable chemical properties, as well as responsive materials such as switches and robots.

In this talk, I will give a brief overview of how nanoscale construction is possible with DNA. I will then describe how we can make novel molecular subunits with well-defined structural and chemical properties to test and develop theories on complex behaviour in molecular self assembly. In particular, we reproduce a paradox commonly observed in biomolecular assemblies such as the DNA replisome, which are stable under dilution but can rapidly exchange subunits when required. We also demonstrate how it is possible for identical subunits to be encoded with ‘knowledge’ on how to self-assemble into well-defined multi-subunit assemblies with much longer length scales than the subunits themselves.

Finally, I will discuss how we can use DNA nanostructures as building scaffolds to control the spatial localisation of metallic nanoparticles and biomolecules to access biocompatible plasmonically-active architectures and to construct nanoscale bioreactors respectively.