How cells respond to mechanical forces by converting them into biological signals underlie crucial cellular processes. Our understanding of mechanotransduction has been hindered by technical barriers, including limitations in our ability to effectively apply low range piconewton forces to specific mechanoreceptors on cell membranes without laborious and repetitive trials. To overcome these challenges we introduce the Nano-winch, a robust, easily assembled, programmable DNA origami-based molecular actuator. The Nano-winch is designed to manipulate multiple mechanoreceptors in parallel by exerting fine-tuned, low- piconewton forces in autonomous and remotely activated modes via adjustable single- and double-stranded DNA linkages, respectively. Nano-winches in autonomous mode can land and operate on the cell surface. Targeting the device to integrin stimulated detectable downstream phosphorylation of focal adhesion kinase, an indication that Nano-winches can be applied to study cellular mechanical processes. Remote activation mode allowed finer extension control and greater force exertion. We united remotely activated Nano-winches with single-channel bilayer experiments to directly observe the opening of a channel by mechanical force in the force responsive gated channel protein, BtuB. This customizable origami provides an instrument-free approach that can be applied to control and explore a diversity of mechanotransduction circuits on living cells.
Full text : DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-30745-2