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Small but mighty – the vast potential of RNA nanotechnology

Published in Nanomachines Development.

(Nanowerk Spotlight) Nucleic acids are becoming increasingly popular for assembling nanoscale structures, thanks to their programmable dimensionality and direct applications in the biological field.

Despite the fact that DNA nanotechnology has been explored more deeply over a longer period of time, RNA nanotechnology offers complementary opportunities and much broader applications. Despite a chemical structure that is similar to DNA, RNA often adopts two- and three-dimensional conformations that are far more complex than its DNA counterpart. Analysis of the rapidly growing structural and sequence databases for RNA has revealed novel RNA structural motifs and RNA-RNA interactions that have inspired scientists to pursue RNA-based nanoengineering with emphasis on biomedical applications.
Akin to DNA origami, researchers have also developed RNA origami folding techniques in order to build a larger library of functional RNA particles. Unlike existing methods for folding DNA molecules, RNA origamis are produced during their transcription by RNA polymerase and they simultaneously fold into pre-designed shapes. These features may allow designer RNA structures to be grown within living cells and used to organize cellular enzymes into biochemical factories.