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DNA Nanostructures Coordinate Gene Silencing in Mature Plants

By Huan Zhang, Gozde S. Demirer, Honglu Zhang, Tianzheng Ye, Natalie S Goh, Abhishek J Aditham, Francis J Cunningham, Chunhai Fan, Markita P Landry

Posted 02 Feb 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/538678 (published DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1818290116)

Plant bioengineering may generate high yielding and stress-resistant crops amidst a changing climate and a growing global population. However, delivery of biomolecules to plants relies on Agrobacterium infection or biolistic particle delivery, the former of which is only amenable to DNA delivery. The difficulty in delivering functional biomolecules such as RNA to plant cells is due to the plant cell wall which is absent in mammalian cells and poses the dominant physical barrier to exogenous biomolecule delivery in plants. DNA nanostructure-mediated biomolecule delivery is an effective strategy to deliver cargoes across the lipid bilayer of mammalian cells, however, nanoparticle-mediated delivery remains unexplored for passive biomolecule delivery across the cell wall in plants. Herein, we report a systematic assessment of different DNA nanostructures for their ability to internalize into cells of mature plants, deliver small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), and effectively silence a constitutively-expressed gene in Nicotiana benthamiana leaves. We show that nanostructure internalization into plant cells and the corresponding gene silencing efficiency depends on the DNA nanostructure size, shape, compactness, stiffness, and location of the siRNA attachment locus on the nanostructure. We further confirm that the internalization efficiency of DNA nanostructures correlates with their respective gene silencing efficiencies, but that the endogenous gene silencing pathway depends on the siRNA attachment locus. Our work establishes the feasibility of biomolecule delivery to plants with DNA nanostructures, and details both the design parameters of importance for plant cell internalization, and also assesses the impact of DNA nanostructure geometry for gene silencing mechanisms.

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