A DNA turbine powered by a transmembrane potential across a nanopore

Xin Shi, Anna-Katharina Pumm, Christopher Maffeo, Fabian Kohler, Elija Feigl, Wenxuan Zhao, Daniel Verschueren, Ramin Golestanian, Aleksei Aksimentiev, Hendrik Dietz, and Cees Dekker
Nature Nanotechnology (2023)
DOI:10.1038/s41565-023-01527-8  BibTex

Rotary motors play key roles in energy transduction, from macroscale windmills to nanoscale turbines such as ATP synthase in cells. Despite our abilities to construct engines at many scales, developing functional synthetic turbines at the nanoscale has remained challenging. Here, we experimentally demonstrate rationally designed nanoscale DNA origami turbines with three chiral blades. These DNA nanoturbines are 24–27 nm in height and diameter and can utilize transmembrane electrochemical potentials across nanopores to drive DNA bundles into sustained unidirectional rotations of up to 10 revolutions s−1. The rotation direction is set by the designed chirality of the turbine. All-atom molecular dynamics simulations show how hydrodynamic flows drive this turbine. At high salt concentrations, the rotation direction of turbines with the same chirality is reversed, which is explained by a change in the anisotropy of the electrophoretic mobility. Our artificial turbines operate autonomously in physiological conditions, converting energy from naturally abundant electrochemical potentials into mechanical work. The results open new possibilities for engineering active robotics at the nanoscale.