A stochastic DNA walker that traverses a microparticle surface

C. Jung, P. B. Allen, A. D. Ellington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

301 Citations (Scopus)


Molecular machines have previously been designed that are propelled by DNAzymes, protein enzymes and strand displacement. These engineered machines typically move along precisely defined one- and two-dimensional tracks. Here, we report a DNA walker that uses hybridization to drive walking on DNA-coated microparticle surfaces. Through purely DNA:DNA hybridization reactions, the nanoscale movements of the walker can lead to the generation of a single-stranded product and the subsequent immobilization of fluorescent labels on the microparticle surface. This suggests that the system could be of use in analytical and diagnostic applications, similar to how strand exchange reactions in solution have been used for transducing and quantifying signals from isothermal molecular amplification assays. The walking behaviour is robust and the walker can take more than 30 continuous steps. The traversal of an unprogrammed, inhomogeneous surface is also due entirely to autonomous decisions made by the walker, behaviour analogous to amorphous chemical reaction network computations, which have been shown to lead to pattern formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-163
Number of pages7
JournalNature Nanotechnology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Feb 1
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the National Institutes of Health (EUREKA, 1-R01-GM094933), The Welch Foundation (F-1654) and a National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship (FA9550-10-1-0169). The authors also acknowledge D. Stefanovic for his helpful discussion of the modelling system.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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