DNA hybridization allows the design and assembly of dynamic DNA-based molecular devices. Such structures usually accomplish their function by the addition of fuel strands that drive the structure from one conformation to a new one or by internal changes in DNA hybridization. We report here on the performance and robustness of one of these devices by the detailed study of a dynamic DNA actuator. The DNA actuator was chosen as a model system, as it is the device with most discrete states to date. It is able to reversibly slide between 11 different states and can in principle function both autonomously and nonautonomously. The 11 states of the actuator were investigated by single molecule Forster Resonance Energy Transfer (smFRET) microscopy to obtain information on the static and dynamic heterogeneities of the device. Our results show that the DNA actuator can be effectively locked in several conformations with the help of well-designed DNA lock strands. However, the device also shows pronounced static and dynamic heterogeneities both in the unlocked and locked modes, and we suggest possible structural models. Our study allows for the direct visualization of the conformational diversity and movement of the dynamic DNA-based device and shows that complex DNA-based devices are inherently heterogeneous. Our results also demonstrate that single molecule techniques are a powerful tool for structural dynamics studies and provide a stringent test for the performance of molecular devices made out of DNA.
Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2014, Vol 136, Issue 25, p. 8957-8962