The emerging field of RNA nanotechnology

Nature Nanotechnology – The emerging field of RNA nanotechnology

Like DNA, RNA can be designed and manipulated to produce a variety of different nanostructures. Moreover, RNA has a flexible structure and possesses catalytic functions that are similar to proteins. Although RNA nanotechnology resembles DNA nanotechnology in many ways, the base-pairing rules for constructing nanoparticles are different. The large variety of loops and motifs found in RNA allows it to fold into numerous complicated structures, and this diversity provides a platform for identifying viable building blocks for various applications. The thermal stability of RNA also allows the production of multivalent nanostructures with defined stoichiometry. Here we review techniques for constructing RNA nanoparticles from different building blocks, we describe the distinct attributes of RNA inside the body, and discuss potential applications of RNA nanostructures in medicine. We also offer some perspectives on the yield and cost of RNA production.

The construction of RNA nanoparticles is a multistep process that starts with a conception step in which the desired properties of the nanoparticle are defined. A computational approach is then applied to predict the structure and folding of the building blocks and the consequences of inter-RNA interactions in the assembly of RNA nanoparticles. After the monomeric building blocks are synthesized (either by enzymatic or chemical approaches), the individual subunits assemble into quaternary architectures by either templated or non-templated methods. The assembled RNA nanostructures are characterized (by atomic force microscope (AFM), electron microscope (EM), gel electrophoresis and so on) to ensure proper folding with desired structural and functional capabilities. After thorough evaluation, the nanoparticles will be used for various applications.

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