Increasing valence pushes DNA nanostar networks to the isostatic point.

TitleIncreasing valence pushes DNA nanostar networks to the isostatic point.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsConrad, Nathaniel, Tynan Kennedy, Deborah K. Fygenson, and Omar A. Saleh
JournalProc Natl Acad Sci U S A
Date Published2019 04 09

The classic picture of soft material mechanics is that of rubber elasticity, in which material modulus is related to the entropic elasticity of flexible polymeric linkers. The rubber model, however, largely ignores the role of valence (i.e., the number of network chains emanating from a junction). Recent work predicts that valence, and particularly the Maxwell isostatic point, plays a key role in determining the mechanics of semiflexible polymer networks. Here, we report a series of experiments confirming the prominent role of valence in determining the mechanics of a model system. The system is based on DNA nanostars (DNAns): multiarmed, self-assembled nanostructures that form thermoreversible equilibrium gels through base pair-controlled cross-linking. We measure the linear and nonlinear elastic properties of these gels as a function of DNAns arm number, f, and concentration [DNAns]. We find that, as f increases from three to six, the gel's high-frequency plateau modulus strongly increases, and its dependence on [DNAns] transitions from nonlinear to linear. Additionally, higher-valence gels exhibit less strain hardening, indicating that they have less configurational freedom. Minimal strain hardening and linear dependence of shear modulus on concentration at high f are consistent with predictions for isostatic systems. Evident strain hardening and nonlinear concentration dependence of shear modulus suggest that the low-f networks are subisostatic and have a transient, potentially fractal percolated structure. Overall, our observations indicate that network elasticity is sensitive both to entropic elasticity of network chains and to junction valence, with an apparent isostatic point [Formula: see text] in agreement with the Maxwell prediction.

Alternate JournalProc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
PubMed ID30914457
PubMed Central IDPMC6462066