Expanding the Rule Set of DNA Circuitry with Associative Toehold Activation

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin Texas 78712, USA.
Journal of the American Chemical Society (Impact Factor: 12.11). 11/2011; 134(1):263-71. DOI: 10.1021/ja206690a
Source: PubMed


Toehold-mediated strand displacement has proven extremely powerful in programming enzyme-free DNA circuits and DNA nanomachines. To achieve multistep, autonomous, and complex behaviors, toeholds must be initially inactivated by hybridizing to inhibitor strands or domains and then relieved from inactivation in a programmed, timed manner. Although powerful and reasonably robust, this strategy has several drawbacks that limit the architecture of DNA circuits. For example, the combination between toeholds and branch migration (BM) domains is 'hard wired' during DNA synthesis thus cannot be created or changed during the execution of DNA circuits. To solve this problem, I propose a strategy called 'associative toehold activation', where the toeholds and BM domains are connected via hybridization of auxiliary domains during the execution of DNA circuits. Bulged thymidines that stabilize DNA three-way junctions substantially accelerate strand displacement reactions in this scheme, allowing fast strand displacement initiated by reversible toehold binding. To demonstrate the versatility of the scheme, I show (1) run-time combination of toeholds and BM domains, (2) run-time recombination of toeholds and BM domains, which results in a novel operation 'toehold switching', and (3) design of a simple conformational self-replicator.

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    • "Toehold-driven systems can usually be operated in a reversible fashion, but they underlie certain experimental restrictions, such as the gradual dilution of the sample. Recent developments in toehold-mediated strand displacement like the remote toehold approach (19) or the associative toehold activation (20) direct towards improved control of the displacement kinetics. "
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    ABSTRACT: The structural reorganization of nanoscale DNA architectures is a fundamental aspect in dynamic DNA nanotechnology. Commonly, DNA nanoarchitectures are reorganized by means of toehold-expanded DNA sequences in a strand exchange process. Here we describe an unprecedented, toehold-free switching process that relies on pseudo-complementary peptide nucleic acid (pcPNA) by using a mechanism that involves double-strand invasion. The usefulness of this approach is demonstrated by application of these peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) as switches in a DNA rotaxane architecture. The monomers required for generating the pcPNA were obtained by an improved synthesis strategy and were incorporated into a PNA actuator sequence as well as into a short DNA strand that subsequently was integrated into the rotaxane architecture. Alternate addition of a DNA and PNA actuator sequence allowed the multiple reversible switching between a mobile rotaxane macrocycle and a stationary pseudorotaxane state. The switching occurs in an isothermal process at room temperature and is nearly quantitative in each switching step. pcPNAs can potentially be combined with light- and toehold-based switches, thus broadening the toolbox of orthogonal switching approaches for DNA architectures that open up new avenues in dynamic DNA nanotechnology.
    Nucleic Acids Research 02/2013; 41(8). DOI:10.1093/nar/gkt121 · 9.11 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Catalyzed hairpin assembly (CHA) is a robust enzyme-free signal-amplification reaction that has a wide range of potential applications, especially in biosensing. Although most studies of the analytical applications of CHA have focused on the measurement of concentrations of biomolecules, we show here that CHA can also be used to probe the spatial organization of biomolecules such as single-stranded DNA. The basis of such detection is the fact that a DNA structure that brings a toehold and a branch-migration domain into close proximity can catalyze the CHA reaction. We quantitatively studied this phenomenon and applied it to the detection of domain reorganization that occurs during DNA self-assembly processes such as the hybridization chain reaction (HCR). We also show that CHA circuits can be designed to detect certain types of hybridization defects. This principle allowed us to develop a "signal on" assay that can simultaneously respond to multiple types of mutations in a DNA strand in one simple reaction, which is of great interest in genotyping and molecular diagnostics. These findings highlight the potential impacts of DNA circuitry on DNA nanotechnology and provide new tools for further development of these fields.
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