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Cation-Responsive and Photocleavable Hydrogels from Noncanonical Amphiphilic DNA Nanostructures

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posted on 14.01.2022, 00:45 by Giacomo Fabrini, Aisling Minard, Ryan A. Brady, Marco Di Antonio, Lorenzo Di Michele
Thanks to its biocompatibility, versatility, and programmable interactions, DNA has been proposed as a building block for functional, stimuli-responsive frameworks with applications in biosensing, tissue engineering, and drug delivery. Of particular importance for in vivo applications is the possibility of making such nanomaterials responsive to physiological stimuli. Here, we demonstrate how combining noncanonical DNA G-quadruplex (G4) structures with amphiphilic DNA constructs yields nanostructures, which we termed “Quad-Stars”, capable of assembling into responsive hydrogel particles via a straightforward, enzyme-free, one-pot reaction. The embedded G4 structures allow one to trigger and control the assembly/disassembly in a reversible fashion by adding or removing K+ ions. Furthermore, the hydrogel aggregates can be photo-disassembled upon near-UV irradiation in the presence of a porphyrin photosensitizer. The combined reversibility of assembly, responsiveness, and cargo-loading capabilities of the hydrophobic moieties make Quad-Stars a promising candidate for biosensors and responsive drug delivery carriers.