Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Tiny nanomachine successfully completes test drive

10.04.2018

Together with colleagues from the USA, scientists from the University of Bonn and the research institute Caesar in Bonn have used nanostructures to construct a tiny machine that constitutes a rotatory motor and can move in a specific direction. The researchers used circular structures from DNA. The results will now be presented in the journal “Nature Nanotechnology”.

Nanomachines include structures of complex proteins and nucleic acids that are powered with chemical energy and can perform directed movements. The principle is known from nature: Bacteria, for example, propel themselves forward using a flagellum. The team of the University of Bonn, the research institute Caesar in Bonn and the University of Michigan (USA) used structures made of DNA nanorings. The two rings are linked like a chain.


Greatly enlarged reproduction of the nanomachine: The two rings are linked like a chain and can well be recognized. At the centre there is the T7 RNA Polymerase.

© Julián Valero/caesar Bonn


In the lab: Prof. Michael Famulok (left) and Dr. Julián Valero from the Life & Medical Sciences (LIMES)-Institute at the University of Bonn at an atomic force microscope.

© Photo: Volker Lannert/Uni Bonn

“One ring fulfills the function of a wheel, the other drives it like an engine with the help of chemical energy”, explains Prof. Dr. Michael Famulok from the Life & Medical Sciences (LIMES) Institute of the University of Bonn.

The tiny vehicle measures only about 30 nanometers (millionths of a millimeter). The “fuel” is provided by the protein “T7 RNA polymerase”. Coupled to the ring that serves as an engine, this enzyme synthesizes an RNA strand based on the DNA sequence and uses the chemical energy released during this process for the rotational movement of the DNA ring.

“As the rotation progresses, the RNA strand grows like a thread from the RNA polymerase”, reports lead author Dr. Julián Valero from Famulok's team. The researchers are using this ever-expanding RNA thread, which basically protrudes from the engine as a waste product, to keep the tiny vehicle on its course by using markings on a DNA-nanotube track.

Length of the test drive is 240 nanometers

Attached to this thread, the unicycle machine covered about 240 nanometers on its test drive. “That was a first go”, says Famulok. “The track can be extended as desired.” In the next step the researchers are not only aiming at expanding the length of the route, but also plan more complex challenges on the test track. At built-in junctions, the nanomachine should decide which way to go. “We can use our methods to predetermine which turn the machine should take”, says Valero with a view towards the future.

Of course, the scientists cannot watch the tiny vehicle at work with the naked eye. By using an atomic force microscope that scanned the surface structure of the nanomachine, the scientists were able to visualize the interlocked DNA rings.

In addition, the team used fluorescent markers to show that the “wheel” of the machine was actually turning. Fluorescent “waymarkers” along the nanotube path lit up as soon as the nano-unicycle passed them. Based thereupon, the speed of the vehicle could also be calculated: One turn of the wheel took about ten minutes. That's not very fast, but nevertheless a big step for the researchers. “Moving the nanomachine in the desired direction is not trivial”, says Famulok.

The components of the machine assemble by self-organisation

Of course, unlike macroscopic machines, the nanomachine was not assembled with a welding torch or wrench. The construction is based on the principle of self-organization. As in living cells, the desired structures arise spontaneously when the corresponding components are made available.

“It works like an imaginary puzzle”, explains Famulok. Each puzzle piece is designed to interact with very specific partners. If you bring together exactly these partners in a single vessel, each particle will find its partner and the desired structure is automatically created.

By now, scientists worldwide have developed numerous nanomachines and nanoengines. But the method developed by Famulok's team is a completely novel principle. “This is a big step: It is not easy to reliably design and realize such a thing on a nanometer scale”, says the scientist. His team wants to develop even more complex nanoengine systems soon. “This is basic research”, says Famulok.

“It is not possible to see exactly where it will lead.” With some imagination, possible applications could for instance include molecular computers that perform logical operations based on molecular movements. Additionally, tiny machines could transport drugs through the bloodstream precisely to where they are required. “But these are still visions of the future”, says Famulok.

Publication: Julián Valero, Nibedita Pal, Soma Dhakal, Nils G. Walter and Michael Famulok: A bio-hybrid DNA rotor-stator nanoengine that moves along predefined tracks, Nature Nanotechnology, DOI: 10.1038/s41565-018-0109-z

Contact:

Prof. Dr. Michael Famulok
Life & Medical Sciences (LIMES)-Institute
University of Bonn
Tel. +49(0)228/731787
E-mail: m.famulok@uni-bonn.de

Captures:

Famulok_Lannert_003.JPG: In the lab: Prof. Michael Famulok (left) and Dr. Julián Valero from the Life & Medical Sciences (LIMES)-Institute at the University of Bonn at an atomic force microscope. © Photo: Volker Lannert/Uni Bonn

cover_project_18_reflejo_cat_pressrelease.jpg: Greatly enlarged reproduction of the nanomachine: The two rings are linked like a chain and can well be recognized. At the centre there is the T7 RNA Polymerase. (c) Julián Valero

Sebastian Scherrer | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Elusive compounds of greenhouse gas isolated by Warwick chemists
18.09.2019 | University of Warwick

nachricht Study gives clues to the origin of Huntington's disease, and a new way to find drugs
18.09.2019 | Rockefeller University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Happy hour for time-resolved crystallography

Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Hamburg and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) outstation in the city have developed a new method to watch biomolecules at work. This method dramatically simplifies starting enzymatic reactions by mixing a cocktail of small amounts of liquids with protein crystals. Determination of the protein structures at different times after mixing can be assembled into a time-lapse sequence that shows the molecular foundations of biology.

The functions of biomolecules are determined by their motions and structural changes. Yet it is a formidable challenge to understand these dynamic motions.

Im Focus: Modular OLED light strips

At the International Symposium on Automotive Lighting 2019 (ISAL) in Darmstadt from September 23 to 25, 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, a provider of research and development services in the field of organic electronics, will present OLED light strips of any length with additional functionalities for the first time at booth no. 37.

Almost everyone is familiar with light strips for interior design. LED strips are available by the metre in DIY stores around the corner and are just as often...

Im Focus: Tomorrow´s coolants of choice

Scientists assess the potential of magnetic-cooling materials

Later during this century, around 2060, a paradigm shift in global energy consumption is expected: we will spend more energy for cooling than for heating....

Im Focus: The working of a molecular string phone

Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Potsdam (both in Germany) and the University of Toronto (Canada) have pieced together a detailed time-lapse movie revealing all the major steps during the catalytic cycle of an enzyme. Surprisingly, the communication between the protein units is accomplished via a water-network akin to a string telephone. This communication is aligned with a ‘breathing’ motion, that is the expansion and contraction of the protein.

This time-lapse sequence of structures reveals dynamic motions as a fundamental element in the molecular foundations of biology.

Im Focus: Milestones on the Way to the Nuclear Clock

Two research teams have succeeded simultaneously in measuring the long-sought Thorium nuclear transition, which enables extremely precise nuclear clocks. TU Wien (Vienna) is part of both teams.

If you want to build the most accurate clock in the world, you need something that "ticks" very fast and extremely precise. In an atomic clock, electrons are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Society 5.0: putting humans at the heart of digitalisation

10.09.2019 | Event News

Interspeech 2019 conference: Alexa and Siri in Graz

04.09.2019 | Event News

AI for Laser Technology Conference: optimizing the use of lasers with artificial intelligence

29.08.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stroke patients relearning how to walk with peculiar shoe

18.09.2019 | Innovative Products

Statistical inference to mimic the operating manner of highly-experienced crystallographer

18.09.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists' design discovery doubles conductivity of indium oxide transparent coatings

18.09.2019 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>