Molecular propulsion: Chemical sensing and chemotaxis of DNA driven by RNA polymerase

Hua Yu, Kyubong Jo, Kristy L. Kounovsky, Juan J.De Pablo, David C. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Living cells sense extracellular signals and direct their movements in response to stimuli in environment. Such autonomous movement allows these machines to sample chemical change over a distance, leading to chemotaxis. Synthetic catalytic rods have been reported to chemotax toward hydrogen peroxide fuel. Nevertheless individualized autonomous control of movement of a population of biomolecules under physiological conditions has not been demonstrated. Here we show the first experimental evidence that a molecular complex consisting of a DNA template and associating RNA polymerases (RNAPs) displays chemokinetic motion driven by transcription substratesnucleoside triphosphates (NTPs). Furthermore this molecular complex exhibits a biased migration into a concentration gradient of NTPs, resembling chemotaxis. We describe this behavior as "Molecular Propulsion", in which RNAP transcriptional actions deform DNA template conformation engendering measurable enhancement of motility. Our results provide new opportunities for designing and directing nanomachines by imposing external triggers within an experimental system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5722-5723
Number of pages2
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number16
StatePublished - Apr 29 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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