A DNA bipedal nanowalker with a piston-like expulsion stroke†
Artificial molecular walkers beyond burn-bridge designs are important for nanotechnology, but their systematic development remains difficult. Herein, we have reported a new rationally designed DNA walker–track system and experimentally verified a previously proposed general expulsion regime for implementing non-burn-bridge nanowalkers. The DNA walker has an optically powered engine motif that reversibly extends and contracts the walker via a quadruplex–duplex conformational change. The walker's extension is an energy-absorbing and force-generating process, which drives the walker's leg dissociation off-track in a piston-like expulsion stroke. The unzipping-shearing asymmetry provides the expulsion stroke a bias, which decides the direction of the walker. Moreover, three candidate walkers of different sizes were fabricated. Fluorescence motility experiments indicated two of them as successful walkers and revealed a distinctive size dependence that was expected for these expulsive walkers, but was not observed in previously reported walkers. This study identifies unique technical requirements for expulsive nanowalkers. The present DNA design is readily adapted for making similar walkers from other molecules since the unzipping-shearing asymmetry is common.
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