DNA-directed construction of three-dimensional photosynthetic assemblies

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Engineering


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Technical Summary

This research programme seeks to establish a working platform that will assemble photosynthetic proteins within DNA nanostructures. A hallmark of our approach is to use engineered photosynthetic proteins that selectively bind to target DNA sequences - both single-stranded and double-stranded - within a DNA nanostructure. This sequence selectivity directs the assembly of these proteins within a DNA matrix, thus providing spatial and positional control. Additional positional control of the overall nanostructure will then be imparted by directing the immobilization of the DNA-photosynthetic complexes by nanolithography. This bio-inspired platform methodology merges the principles of "bottom up" DNA nanotechnology with "top down" nanolithography and would provide the means to control, for the first time, the location of each photosynthetic protein module, inter-module distance and their relative orientation in both two- (2D) and three-dimensions (3D) along surfaces. Furthermore, this new design lexicon, if successful, will provide a framework to correlate how these parameters influence overall light harvesting efficiency.

Planned Impact

Potential Economic Impact of this Research

Synthetic Biology - One of the fundamental drivers of this research programme is the synthesis of modified DNA and DNA-binding molecules. Both synthetic aspects will deliver a battery of new methods to prepare novel compounds that could have wider economic impact on the Synthetic Biology and Diagnostic sectors of Life Science research beyond the lifespan of this 3 year project.

Diagnostics - New methodology to direct the assembly of DNA nanostructures on solid surfaces will pose additional benefits to the medical diagnostic sectors, particularly those directly associated with the identification of nucleic acid and protein biomarkers. It is envisaged that the benefits will arise from the development of new surface modification chemistries, new methods to incorporate functionality into DNA, which in turn could improve the sensitivity and selectivity of new biomolecular analytes and novel techniques to detect analytes using optical methods.

Outputs: Patent protection of Intellectual Property; exploration of licensees.

Mechanisms of delivering Economic Impact: UoS's and UoG's Knowledge Exchange partnership and Impact Acceleration Account (IAA), Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept or the Technology Strategy Board's Biomedical Catalyst; Collaborative PhD students through Biomolecular Devices CDT (UoS).

Potential Societal Impact of this Research

This research describes a Synthetic Biology-inspired rationale to produce functional DNA nanostructures. Synthetic Biology has been designated a priority research area by the British Government and "has the ability to revolutionize major industries in bio-energy and bio-technology in the UK" (David Willets). At present, the application of Synthetic Biology techniques to create functional DNA-directed devices has not been recognized as a potential area for wider exploitation. Therefore the potential societal impact could be very significant. In order to prepare for this, public engagement with stakeholders associated with the field of UK Synthetic Biology would expedite acceptance of new and emerging applications.

Outputs: Public discussion of the role of Synthetic Biology and Nanotechnology in society; Dissemination of results through the mainstream press, UoG and UoS websites.
Mechanisms of delivering Societal Impact: Delivery of a Coffee House Lecture in Glasgow's City Centre; Involvement in Glasgow Science Festival and Glasgow Science Centre events.


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Description The aim of the grant was to take the light-harvesting proteins that appear in particular photosynthetic bacteria and explore their use nano-engineered device applications.
Various strategies were employed in order to connect the 2 proteins together in a nano engineered system in order to artificially recreate there natural arrangement.
These included:
Using DNA Origami as a molecular peg-board to arrange the proteins.
Using electron-beam lithography and specific surface chemistries in order to pattern the proteins on surfaces.
Trapping the proteins together in chemically synthesised silica nanostructure.
Using DNA hybridisation to 'tie' the proteins together.
With the exception of the Origami approach we have had moderate success with all of the methods we have tried.
We are now continuing this work in order to fully realise its potential.
Exploitation Route We expect that in the near future we will be able to publish our findings on a number of novel chemical patterning strategies - and DNA linkage strategies - that we have employed in order to pattern the proteins on engineered surfaces.
These techniques will be broadly applicable to a large range of chemical and biochemical nano patterning applications.
Sectors Chemicals,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description DNA-directed construction of three-dimensional photosynthetic assemblies
Amount £615,649 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/N016734/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 06/2020
Title Fluorous Directed Assembly of DNA Origami Nanostructures 
Description Data associated with the results shown in the paper Fluorous Directed Assembly of DNA Origami Nanostructures. Data includes HPLC info, AFM and AGE images, CanDo simulations, and DNA sequence information. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2022 
Provided To Others? Yes  
URL http://researchdata.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/1353
Title Multilayered Nanoplasmonic Arrays for Self-Referenced Biosensing 
Description Data underpinning the associated publication. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Title Whisky tasting using a bimetallic nanoplasmonic tongue 
Description Simulation data, Spectroscopy data, SEM, optical microscopy 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes