DNA is one of the essential elements in life as it carries genetic information. The ability to store and process the information may also be exploited to translate DNA into an engineering material. The sequence complementarity has led to the rational use of DNA to construct complex nanostructures and execute molecular computations or dynamic mechanical motions. This talk will show how molecular information may be programmed into biochemical machinery for bottom-up synthetic biology.
I will first introduce the field of DNA nanotechnology and discuss how DNA molecules can be engineered to construct programmable designer materials. The first part of this presentation will include novel molecular mechanisms for building artificial cells with functional DNA components. We show that synthetic lipid vesicles with DNA walkers can not only migrate on 2D surfaces with directional motility, but also coordinate their motions with other vesicles. The cooperative behaviors emulate biological cell activities such as immune response. I will also discuss another example of an artificial cell system that can receive, transduce, and transmit intercellular signals. The artificial cells have transmembrane channels made of DNA origami that are used to recognize and process intercellular signals, showing programmable aggregation behaviors. We demonstrate that multiple small vesicles aggregate onto a giant vesicle after a transduction of external DNA signals by an intracellular enzyme and that the small vesicles dissociate when receiving ‘release’ signals. This work provides new possibilities for building synthetic protocells capable of chemical communication and cooperative motion, thus opening possibilities for new discoveries in fundamental sciences and novel applications in biotechnology. The presentation will be concluded with several exemplary applications.