The Growth Rate of DNA Condensate Droplets Increases with the Size of Participating Subunits

Siddharth Agarwal, Dino Osmanovic, Melissa A. Klocke, Elisa Franco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) is a common phenomenon underlying the formation of dynamic membraneless organelles in biological cells, which are emerging as major players in controlling cellular functions and health. The bottom-up synthesis of biomolecular liquid systems with simple constituents, like nucleic acids and peptides, is useful to understand LLPS in nature as well as to develop programmable means to build new amorphous materials with properties matching or surpassing those observed in natural condensates. In particular, understanding which parameters determine condensate growth kinetics is essential for the synthesis of condensates with the capacity for active, dynamic behaviors. Here we use DNA nanotechnology to study artificial liquid condensates through programmable star-shaped subunits, focusing on the effects of changing subunit size. First, we show that LLPS is achieved in a 6-fold range of subunit size. Second, we demonstrate that the rate of growth of condensate droplets scales with subunit size. Our investigation is supported by a general model that describes how coarsening and coalescence are expected to scale with subunit size under ideal assumptions. Beyond suggesting a route toward achieving control of LLPS kinetics via design of subunit size in synthetic liquids, our work suggests that particle size may be a key parameter in biological condensation processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11842-11851
Number of pages10
JournalACS Nano
Issue number8
StatePublished - 23 Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes

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  • DNA nanotechnology
  • biomolecular materials
  • condensates
  • phase separation
  • programmable materials


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