Encoding quantized fluorescence states with fractal DNA frameworks.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-16112-z
Signal amplification in biological systems is achieved by cooperatively recruiting multiple copies of regulatory biomolecules. Nevertheless, the multiplexing capability of artificial fluorescent amplifiers is limited due to the size limit and lack of modularity. Here, we develop Cayley tree-like fractal DNA frameworks to topologically encode the fluorescence states for multiplexed detection of low-abundance targets. Taking advantage of the self-similar topology of Cayley tree, we use only 16 DNA strands to construct n-node (n = 53) structures of up to 5 megadalton. The high level of degeneracy allows encoding 36 colours with 7 nodes by site-specifically anchoring of distinct fluorophores onto a structure. The fractal topology minimises fluorescence crosstalk and allows quantitative decoding of quantized fluorescence states. We demonstrate a spectrum of rigid-yet-flexible super-multiplex structures for encoded fluorescence detection of single-molecule recognition events and multiplexed discrimination of living cells. Thus, the topological engineering approach enriches the toolbox for high-throughput cell imaging.