Exponential growth and selection in self-replicating materials from DNA origami rafts

Xiaojin He, Ruojie Sha, Rebecca Zhuo, Yongli Mi, Paul M. Chaikin, Nadrian C. Seeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Self-replication and evolution under selective pressure are inherent phenomena in life, and but few artificial systems exhibit these phenomena. We have designed a system of DNA origami rafts that exponentially replicates a seed pattern, doubling the copies in each diurnal-like cycle of temperature and ultraviolet illumination, producing more than 7 million copies in 24 cycles. We demonstrate environmental selection in growing populations by incorporating pH-sensitive binding in two subpopulations. In one species, pH-sensitive triplex DNA bonds enable parent-daughter templating, while in the second species, triplex binding inhibits the formation of duplex DNA templating. At pH 5.3, the replication rate of species I isâ 1/41.3-1.4 times faster than that of species II. At pH 7.8, the replication rates are reversed. When mixed together in the same vial, the progeny of species I replicate preferentially at pH 7.8; similarly at pH 5.3, the progeny of species II take over the system. This addressable selectivity should be adaptable to the selection and evolution of multi-component self-replicating materials in the nanoscopic-to-microscopic size range.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)993-997
Number of pages5
JournalNature Materials
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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