MODIFYING DNA CRYSTALS FOR NANOTECHNOLOGICAL APPLICATIONS
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DNA’s programmable nature and ability to self-assemble provides a powerful tool for the construction of complex nanostructures. The initial goal of the field was to use DNA to construct a continuous 3D DNA periodic lattice or crystal. The ultimate aim of the lattice structure would be to act as scaffold for the strategic placement of guest molecules such as macromolecules for structure determination using X-ray. Since that initial vision, the incorporation of guest molecules in DNA nanostructures has expanded to other applications such as cellular imaging, light-harvesting and drug delivery. However, there are several limitations to utilizing DNA crystals for these types of applications. They require relatively high cation concentrations to crystallize and often have low thermal stability. Additionally, crystals generally take on only one shape, or morphology, which can limit their uses in applications. Our laboratory studies a 13-mer DNA oligonucleotide that self-assembles into crystals upon the addition of magnesium. I demonstrated that by treating these DNA crystals with a chemical crosslinker and depositing polydopamine on the crystal surface, we increased the overall durability of the crystals. Additionally, we modulated the morphology of the crystal without changing the underlying framework by designing crystal habit modifiers based on the known crystal structure and were able to predictably control the morphology of the overall crystal. This enhanced durability has allowed us to begin testing new applications for DNA crystals. I have explored the incorporation of doxorubicin into the stabilized DNA crystals as a potential form of a new drug delivery device. Together, this work significantly advanced several key areas necessary to diversify the capability of DNA crystals for nanotechnological applications.