Rational design of DNA motors: Fuel optimization through single-molecule fluorescence

Toma E. Tomov, Roman Tsukanov, Miran Liber, Rula Masoud, Noa Plavner, Eyal Nir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


While numerous DNA-based molecular machines have been developed in recent years, high operational yield and speed remain a major challenge. To understand the reasons for the limited performance, and to find rational solutions, we applied single-molecule fluorescence techniques and conducted a detailed study of the reactions involved in the operation of a model system comprised of a bipedal DNA walker that strides on a DNA origami track powered by interactions with fuel and antifuel strands. Analysis of the kinetic profiles of the leg-lifting reactions indicates a pseudo-first-order antifuel binding mechanism leading to a rapid and complete leg-lifting, indicating that the fuel-removal reaction is not responsible for the 1% operational yield observed after six steps. Analysis of the leg-placing reactions showed that although increased concentrations of fuel increase the reaction rate, they decrease the yield by consecutively binding the motor and leading to an undesirable trapped state. Recognizing this, we designed asymmetrical hairpin-fuels that by regulating the reaction hierarchy avoid consecutive binding. Motors operating with the improved fuels show 74% yield after 12 consecutive reactions, a dramatic increase over the 1% observed for motors operating with nonhairpin fuels. This work demonstrates that studying the mechanisms of the reactions involved in the operation of DNA-based molecular machines using single-molecule fluorescence can facilitate rationally designed improvements that increase yield and speed and promote the applicability of DNA-based machines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11935-11941
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number32
StatePublished - 14 Aug 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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