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On the Role of Flexibility in Linker-Mediated DNA Hydrogels


Three-dimensional DNA networks, composed of tri- or higher valent nanostars with sticky, single-stranded DNA overhangs, have been previously studied in the context of designing thermally responsive, viscoelastic hydrogels. In this work, we use linker-mediated gels, where the sticky ends of two trivalent nanostars are connected through the complementary sticky ends of a linear DNA duplex. We can design this connection to be either rigid or flexible by introducing flexible, non-binding bases. The additional flexiblity provided by these non-binding bases influences the effective elasticity of the percolating gel formed at low temperatures. Here we show that by choosing the right length of the linear duplex and non-binding flexible joints, we obtain a completely different phase behaviour to that observed for rigid linkers. In particular, we use dynamic light scattering as microrheological tool to monitor the self-assembly of DNA nanostars with linear linkers as a function of temperature. While we observe classical gelation when using rigid linkers, the presence of flexible joints leads to a cluster fluid with a much-reduced viscosity. Using both the oxDNA model and a coarse-grained simulation to investigate the nanostar-linker topology, we hypothesise on the possible structure formed by the DNA clusters. Moreover, we present a systematic study of the strong viscosity increase of aqueous solutions in the presence of these DNA building blocks.

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Publication details

The article was received on 10 Jul 2019, accepted on 26 Nov 2019 and first published on 27 Nov 2019

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C9SM01398A
Soft Matter, 2019, Accepted Manuscript

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    On the Role of Flexibility in Linker-Mediated DNA Hydrogels

    I. D. Stoev, T. Cao, A. Caciagli, J. Yu, C. Ness, R. Liu, R. Ghosh, T. O'Neill, D. Liu and E. Eiser, Soft Matter, 2019, Accepted Manuscript , DOI: 10.1039/C9SM01398A

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