Nucleic acids (NAs) are extraordinary molecules, developed by life to store and transfer genetic information using sequence-directed duplexing. IRG2 is organized to carry out a broad exploration of the sequence-directed self-assembly of functional materials using Click Nucleic Acids (CNAs). CNAs are a new DNA analog system, invented by Center investigators, in which oligomer chains with DNA-style sequences of selected bases are synthesized using thiol-ene click chemistry. The resulting thio-ether backbone/base structure is similar in its essential geometry to that of DNA and other NA analogs such as peptide nucleic acid (PNA), enabling CNA to exhibit sequence-directed duplexing analogous to that of DNA, as predicted by atomistic molecular dynamic simulations and observed experimentally in complexation, gelation and biodetection studies. The synergistic combination of click chemistry and oligo-nucleotide synthesis has dramatic advantages in expanding sequence-directed assembly into the realm of practical materials science and technology. IRG2 research is organized into two major project areas: Design and Synthesis and Self-Assembly.
• Design and Synthesis - This project focuses on the creation and characterization of new CNA molecules. Research activities include developing highly scalable synthetic processes for CNAs, expanding the base alphabets, and controlling the backbone and side chains to tailor molecular functionality and compatibility.
• Self-Assembly - The principal aim of this project is the exploration of CNA sequence-directed self-assembly functionalities in a variety of interfacial and bulk applications, taking advantage of the enhanced programmability and design flexibility afforded by CNAs, in applications including nanotemplating and nanopatterning, nanoparticle organization, block copolymers, and hydrogels.