Engineering the Structure and Properties of DNA-Nanoparticle Superstructures Using Polyvalent Counterions

Leo YT Chou, Fayi Song, Warren CW Chan

J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2016, 138, 13, 4565–4572 | DOI: 10.1021/jacs.6b00751


DNA assembly of nanoparticles is a powerful approach to control their properties and prototype new materials. However, the structure and properties of DNA-assembled nanoparticles are labile and sensitive to interactions with counterions, which vary with processing and application environment. Here we show that substituting polyamines in place of elemental counterions significantly enhanced the structural rigidity and plasmonic properties of DNA-assembled metal nanoparticles. These effects arose from the ability of polyamines to condense DNA and cross-link DNA-coated nanoparticles. We further used polyamine wrapped DNA nanostructures as structural templates to seed the growth of polymer multilayers via layer-by-layer assembly, and controlled the degree of DNA condensation, plasmon coupling efficiency, and material responsiveness to environmental stimuli by varying polyelectrolyte composition. These results highlight counterion engineering as a versatile strategy to tailor the properties of DNA-nanoparticle assemblies for various applications, and should be applicable to other classes of DNA nanostructures.