A highly integrated DNA nanomachine operating in living cells powered by an endogenous stimulus†
Synthetic molecular machines have received increasing attention because of their great ability to mimic natural biological motors and create novel modes of motion. However, very few examples have been implemented with real autonomous movement inside living cells, due to the challenges of the driving force and highly integrated system design. In this work, we report an elegant, highly integrated DNA nanomachine that can be powered by endogenous ATP molecules and autonomously operated inside living cells without any auxiliary additives. It assembles all components on a single gold nanoparticle (AuNP) including a hairpin-locked swing arm encoding a start triggered by an intracellular target molecule and a two-stranded DNA track responding to the motion of the swing arm. When the intracellular target activates the nanomachine via the unlocking swing arm, the machine autonomously and progressively operates on the established DNA track via intramolecular toehold-mediated strand migration and internal ATP binding. This paper also demonstrates the machine's bioanalytical application for specific microRNA (miRNA) imaging in living cells.