Building with DNA
Prof. Clemens Richert, Institut für organische Chemie, Universität Stuttgart
Oligonucleotides are attractive starting materials for the construction of nanostructures. They are readily accessible through automated synthesis, and assemble via predictable base pairing interactions, forming fascinating new structures, ranging from boxes to molecular assembly lines. But, nucleic acids are also at the center of studies aimed at creating self-evolving systems that mimic putative early phases of life on planet Earth.
Results from two projects will be presented. The first project employs branched oligonucleotides to assemble novel nanostructured materials. The branching points are rigid synthetic organic cores, decorated with short oligonucleotide chains that drive the assembly into lattices and crystallites. The second project studies the self-copying properties of oligonucleotides (both RNA and aminoterminal DNA). Enzyme-free versions of primer extension, the reaction underlying replication, will be presented that allow incorporation of any of the four nucleotides (A/C/G/T or U), as directed by the sequence of a template. Chemical primer extension has the potential to explore the sequence space of functional nucleic acids and to allow for the construction of new, encoded nanostructures.