Self–Assembled DNA Liquids: Properties and Protein Activation
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Biomolecules can self-assemble into liquid phases, termed ‘membraneless organelles’ in the biological context, though also known as ‘coacervates’. I will discuss our efforts to study this by exploiting DNA nanotechnology to create DNA particles that phase separate into liquids. Formation of liquids, rather than gel aggregates, depends sensitively on the internal flexibility of the DNA particles. Our engineered system displays unusual properties, including the ability to create several distinct liquid phases in a single solution, and to tailor interactions between the phases. Further, the reduced valency of the particles, along with the relatively stiff nature of the constituent DNA strands, causes the liquid to be extraordinarily sparse, with a DNA volume fraction of only ~2%. This opens the possibility to activate the material by infusion of the liquid with proteins; I will discuss our initial attempts at doing this.
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