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Abstract: Biological systems reconfigure their shape in response to external stimuli for tasks such as growth, development, and self-repair. Cell-shape adaptation is accomplished by organizing spatially and temporally the cytoskeleton via biochemical signaling pathways that sense, process, and transmit information. Embedding this architecture in a synthetic material could enable life-like behaviors, however, cellular pathways are too complex to be reprogrammed for this purpose. An alternative route is offered by nucleic acid nanotechnology: logic and dynamic reaction networks, as well as a variety of self-assembling nanostructures, have been successfully demonstrated. Here, we connect dynamic and structural DNA nanotechnology and demonstrate the programmable, dynamic control of self-assembly of DNA nanotubes, a well-known class of micron-sized DNA nanostructures. Control of nanotube assembly is achieved with minimal synthetic gene systems, including an autonomous molecular oscillator. We use a coarse-grained computational model to capture nanotube length distribution dynamics in response to inputs from nucleic acid circuits. These advances open new avenues for the construction of active biomaterials that can adapt and respond to environmental stimuli by changing their mechanical properties, with applications in biomaterials science, nanofabrication, and drug delivery.

Biosketch: Elisa Franco is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at UC Riverside. She received a Ph.D. in Control and Dynamical Systems from the California Institute of Technology in 2011. She also received a Ph.D. in Automation and a Laurea degree (cum laude) in Power Systems Engineering from the University of Trieste, Italy.  Prof. Franco’s main interests are in the areas of biological feedback and DNA nanotechnology: her research focuses on design, modeling, and synthesis of controllers and responsive materials using nucleic acids and proteins.  She is the recipient of an NSF CAREER award and a Hellman Fellowship.

Date(s) - Mar 20, 2018
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm


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