DNA molecular motor driven micromechanical cantilever arrays

Wenmiao Shu, Dongsheng Liu, Moyu Watari, Christian K. Riener, Torsten Strunz, Mark E. Welland, Shankar Balasubramanian, Rachel A. McKendry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

186 Citations (Scopus)


The unique ability of living systems to translate biochemical reactions into mechanical work has inspired the design of synthetic DNA motors which generate nanoscale motion via controlled conformational change. However, while Nature has evolved intricate mechanisms to convert molecular shape change into specific micrometer-scale mechanical cellular responses, the integration of artificial DNA motors with mechanical devices presents a major challenge. Here we report the direct integration between an ensemble of DNA motors and an array of microfabricated silicon cantilevers. The forces exerted by the precise duplex to nonclassical i-motif conformational change were probed via differential measurements using an in-situ reference cantilever coated with a nonspecific sequence of DNA. Fueled by the addition of protons, the open to close stroke of the motor induced 32 +/- 3 mN/m compressive surface stress, which corresponds to a single motor force of approximately 11 pN/m, an order of magnitude larger than previous classical hybridization studies. Furthermore, the surface-tethered conformational change was found to be highly reversible, in contrast to classical DNA motors which typically suffer rapid system poisoning. The direction and amplitude of motor-induced cantilever motion was tuneable via control of buffer pH and ionic strength, indicating that electrostatic forces play an important role in stress generation. Hybrid devices which directly harness the multiple accessible conformational states of dynamic oligonucleotides and aptamers, translating biochemical energy into micromechanical work, present a radical new approach to the construction of "smart" nanoscale machinery and mechano-biosensors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17054–17060
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number48
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • micromechanical cantilever arrays
  • cantilever beam


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