Chengde Mao

Chengde Mao Profile Picture

Professor, Department of Chemistry
Ph.D., New York University

Contact Info:

Training Group(s):
Chemical Biology
Biomolecular Structure and Biophysics

Active Mentor - currently hosting PULSe students for laboratory rotations and recruiting PULSe students into the laboratory; serves on preliminary exam committees

Current Research Interests:

We are interested in programmed self-assembly of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), or DNA nanotechnology. Nucleic acids are information-rich molecules. They have well-defined secondary structures (duplexes) and simple interaction rules (Watson-Crick base pairing). These chemical properties render nucleic acids to be excellent molecules for programmed self-assembly. Since 1982, a wide range of nanostructures have been constructed and find applications in biosensing, imaging, smart drug delivery, vaccine, organizing chemical reactions, plasmonic devices etc. Our current research topics include:

  1. DNA/RNA self-assembly. A key question that we would like to address is: how can we prepare complicated DNA nanostructures simply from minimal numbers of unique component DNA/RNA strands? In this regards, we are extensively taking advantage of structure/sequence symmetries.
  2. Structural determination of biomacromolecules. The central idea is to organize biomacromolecules onto self-assembled DNA nanostructures to form highly symmetric biomacromolecule-DNA complexes, which can be readily characterized by X-ray crystallography or cryo-EM imaging.
  3. DNA-directed guest self-assembly. DNA nanostructures can serve as a platform to organize/integrate multi-functionalities (such as molecular recognition, catalysis, and light harvesting).
  4. DNA-based molecular lithography. We are developing methods to transfer DNA nanostructures into nanostructures of functional materials, e.g. silicone.
  5. DNA nanomachines. Conformational changes of DNA can be programmed to perform particular functions, e.g. transporting materials along prescribed paths.
  6. DNA-based nanomedicines. We are exploring using DNA nanostructures as platforms for sensitive disease diagnosis, bioimaging, and smart drug (small nucleic acid drugs in particular) delivery, and therapeutic devices.
  7. Interrogation of basic biological processes/interactions related to spatial-temporal controls. Among many biological problems of our interest, multivalency is particularly important. It is a common strategy in biological events, ranging from immune responses to cell interactions. DNA nanostructures provide a universal tool to organize ligands for studying multivalent interactions.

Selected Publications:

Yu He, Tao Ye, Min Su, Chuan Zhang, Alexander E. Ribbe, Wen Jiang & Chengde Mao. Hierarchical Self-Assembly of DNA into Symmetric Supramolecular Polyhedra. Nature 452, 198-201 (2008).

Jianping Zheng, Jens J. Birktoft, Yi Chen, Tong Wang, Ruojie Sha, Pamela E. Constantinou, Stephan L. Ginnell, Chengde Mao & Nadrian C. Seeman. The Rational Design and Structural Analysis of a Self-Assembled Three-Dimensional DNA Crystal. Nature 461, 74-77 (2009).

Seung Hyeon Ko, Min Su, Chuan Zhang, Alexander E. Ribbe, Wen Jiang & Chengde Mao. Synergistic Self-Assembly of RNA and DNA Molecules. Nature Chemistry 2, 1050-1055 (2010).

Jie song, Zhe Li, Pengfei Wang, Travis Meyer, Chengde Mao & Yonggang Ke. Reconfiguration of DNA Molecular Arrays Driven by Information Relay. Science 357, 371 (2017).

Mo Li, Mengxi Zheng, Siyu Wu, Cheng Tian, Di Liu, Yossi Weizmann, Wen Jiang, Guansong Wang & Chengde Mao. In Vivo Production of RNA Nanostructures via Programmed Golding of Single-Stranded RNAs. Nat. Commun. 9, 2196 (2018).

Qian Li, Jiemin Zhao, Longfei Liu, Sagun Jonchhe, Felix J. Rizzuto, Shankar Mandal, Huawei He, Sansen Wei, Hanadi F. Sleiman, Hanbin Mao & Chengde Mao. A Poly(thymine) – Melamine Duplex for the Assembly of DNA Nanomaterials. Nat. Materials 19, 1012-1018 (2020).

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