Programmable, isothermal disassembly of DNA-linked colloidal particles

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Tison, Christopher Kirby
Milam, Valeria T.
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Colloidal particles serve as useful building blocks for materials applications ranging from controlled band-gap materials to rationally designed drug delivery systems. Thus, developing approaches to direct the assembly and disassembly of sub-micron sized particles will be paramount to further advances in materials science engineering. This project focuses on using programmable and reversible binding between oligonucleotide strands to assemble and then disassemble polystyrene colloidal particles. It is shown that DNA-mediated assembly can be reversed at a fixed temperature using secondary oligonucleotide strands to competitively displace the primary strands linking particles together. It was found that 1) titrating the surface density of hybridizing probe strands and 2) adjusting the base length difference between primary and secondary target strands was key to successful isothermal disassembly. In order to titrate the surface density of primary probe-target duplexes, colloidal particles were conjugated with mixtures of probe strands and "diluent" strands in order to minimize the number of DNA linkages between particles. To reduce the steric interference of the diluent strands to hybridization events, diluent strands were clipped with a restriction enzyme in select cases. Kinetics studies revealed that a four to six base-length difference between primary and secondary target strands resulted in extensive competitive hybridization at secondary oligonucleotide concentrations as low as 10 nM. Importantly, it was found that the timing for release of either DNA alone or DNA-conjugated nanoparticles could be tuned through choices in the DNA sequences and concentration. Lastly, competitive hybridization was explored in select studies to drive the "shedding" of PEGylated DNA targets from microspheres to reveal underlying adhesive groups or ligands on the particle surface. Unlike prior work relying on elevated temperatures to melt DNA-linkages, this work presents an important first step towards extending DNA as a reversible assembly tool for physiological applications such as multifunctional drug delivery vehicles programmed to disassemble at targeted tissue sites such as malignant tumors.
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