Reversible and controllable nanolocomotion of an RNA-processing machinery

Gwangrog Lee, Sophia Hartung, Karl Peter Hopfner, Taekjip Ha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Molecular motors have inspired many avenues of research for nanotechnology but most molecular motors studied so far allow only unidirectional movement. The archaeal RNA-exosome is a reversible motor that can either polymerize or degrade an RNA strand, depending on the chemical environments. We developed a single molecule fluorescence assay to analyze the real time locomotion of this nanomachine on RNA. Despite the multimeric structure, the enzyme followed the Michaelis-Menten kinetics with the maximum speed of ∼3 nucleotides/s, showing that the three catalytic cylinders do not fire cooperatively. We also demonstrate rapid directional switching on demand by fluidic control. When the two reaction speeds are balanced on average, the enzyme shows a memory of the previous reaction it catalyzed and stochastically switches between primarily polymerizing and primarily degrading behaviors. The processive, reversible, and controllable locomotion propelled by this nanomachine has a promising potential in environmental sensing, diagnostic, and cargo delivery applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5123-5130
Number of pages8
JournalNano Letters
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 8 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Archaeal exosome
  • RNA degradation
  • RNA polymerization
  • nanolocomotion
  • nanomotor
  • single molecule FRET technique

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering


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