Tiny self-assembling transport networks, powered by nano-scale motors and controlled by DNA, have been developed by scientists at Oxford University and Warwick University. The system can construct its own network of tracks spanning tens of micrometres in length, transport cargo across the network and even dismantle the tracks. The work is published in Nature Nanotechnology and was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
Ref: Transport and self-organization across different length scales powered by motor proteins and programmed by DNA. Nature Nanotechnology (10 November 2013) | DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2013.230
In eukaryotic cells, cargo is transported on self-organized networks of microtubule trackways by kinesin and dynein motor proteins. Synthetic microtubule networks have previously been assembled in vitro and microtubules have been used as shuttles to carry cargoes on lithographically defined tracks consisting of surface-bound kinesin motors. Here, we show that molecular signals can be used to program both the architecture and the operation of a self-organized transport system that is based on kinesin and microtubules and spans three orders of magnitude in length scale. A single motor protein, dimeric kinesin-18, is conjugated to various DNA nanostructures to accomplish different tasks. Instructions encoded into the DNA sequences are used to direct the assembly of a polar array of microtubules and can be used to control the loading, active concentration and unloading of cargo on this track network, or to trigger the disassembly of the network.