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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Nov 13;109(46):18731-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1207356109. Epub 2012 Oct 24.

Polygamous particles.

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Center for Soft Matter Research, Department of Physics, New York University, New York, NY 10003, USA.


DNA is increasingly used as an important tool in programming the self-assembly of micrometer- and nanometer-scale particles. This is largely due to the highly specific thermoreversible interaction of cDNA strands, which, when placed on different particles, have been used to bind precise pairs in aggregates and crystals. However, DNA functionalized particles will only reach their true potential for particle assembly when each particle can address and bind to many different kinds of particles. Indeed, specifying all bonds can force a particular designed structure. In this paper, we present the design rules for multiflavored particles and show that a single particle, DNA functionalized with many different "flavors," can recognize and bind specifically to many different partners. We investigate the cost of increasing the number of flavors in terms of the reduction in binding energy and melting temperature. We find that a single 2-μm colloidal particle can bind to 40 different types of particles in an easily accessible time and temperature regime. The practical limit of ∼100 is set by entropic costs for particles to align complementary pairs and, surprisingly, by the limited number of distinct "useful" DNA sequences that prohibit subunits with nonspecific binding. For our 11 base "sticky ends," the limit is 73 distinct sequences with no unwanted overlaps of 5 bp or more. As an example of phenomena enabled by polygamous particles, we demonstrate a three-particle system that forms a fluid of isolated clusters when cooled slowly and an elastic gel network when quenched.

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