Functionalization of DNA Nanostructures for Cell Signaling Applications
Transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) is an important cytokine responsible for a wide range of different cellular functions including extracellular matrix formation, angiogenesis and epithelial-mesenchymal transition. We have sought to use self-assembling DNA nanostructures to influence TGF-beta signaling.
The predictable Watson Crick base pairing allows for designing selfassembling nanoscale structures using oligonucleotides. We have used the method of DNA origami to assemble structures functionalized with multiple peptides that bind TGF-beta receptors outside the ligand binding domain. This allows the nanostructures to cluster TGF-beta receptors and lower the energy barrier of ligand binding thus sensitizing the cells to TGF-beta stimulation. To prove efficacy of our nanostructures we have utilized immunofluorescent staining of Smad2/4 in order to monitor TGF-beta mediated translocation of Smad2/4 to the cell nucleus. We have also utilized Smad2/4 responsive luminescence constructs that allows us to quantify TGF-beta stimulation with and without nanostructures.
To functionalize our nanostructures we relied on biotin-streptavidin linkages. This introduces a multivalency that is not necessarily desirable in all designs. Therefore we have investigated alternative means of functionalization.
The first approach is based on targeting DNA nanostructure by using zinc finger binding proteins. Efficacy of zinc finger binding proteins was assayed by the use of enzyme-linked immunosorbent (ELISA) assay and atomic force microscopy (AFM). While ELISA indicated a relative specificity of zinc finger proteins for target DNA sequences AFM showed a high degree of non-specific binding and insufficient affinity.
The second approach is based on using peptide nucleic acid (PNA) incorporated in the nanostructure through base pairing. PNA is a synthetic DNA analog consisting of a backbone of repeating N-(2-aminoethyl)-glycine units to which purine and pyrimidine bases are linked by amide bonds. The solid phase synthesis of PNA allows for convenient extension of the backbone into a peptide segment enabling peptide functionalization of DNA nanostructures. We have investigated how the neutral character of PNA alters the incorporation in DNA based nanostructures compared to a DNA control using biotinylation and AFM.
Results indicate that PNA can successfully be used as a way of functionalizing DNA nanostructures. Additionally we have shown that functionalized nanostructures are capable of sensitizing cells to TGF-beta stimulation.
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