Read the full article here: Nature Nanotechnology (2018); DOI:10.1038/s41565-018-0168-1
DNA has traditionally been used for the programmable design of nanostructures by exploiting its sequence-defined supramolecular recognition. However, control on larger length scales or even hierarchical materials that translate to the macroscale remain difficult to construct. Here, we show that the polymer character of single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) can be activated via a nucleobase-specific lower critical solution temperature, which provides a unique access to mesoscale structuring mechanisms on larger length scales. We integrate both effects into ssDNA multiblock copolymers that code sequences for phase separation, hybridization and functionalization. Kinetic pathway guidance using temperature ramps balances the counteracting mesoscale phase separation during heating with nanoscale duplex recognition during cooling to yield a diversity of complex all-DNA colloids with control over the internal dynamics and of their superstructures. Our approach provides a facile and versatile platform to add mesostructural layers into hierarchical all-DNA materials. The high density of addressable ssDNA blocks opens routes for applications such as gene delivery, artificial evolution or spatially encoded (bio)materials.