An emergent understanding of strand displacement in RNA biology

Fan Hong, Petr Sulc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


DNA and RNA are generally regarded as central molecules in molecular biology. Recent advancements in the field of DNA/RNA nanotechnology successfully used DNA/RNA as programmable molecules to construct molecular machines and nanostructures with predefined shapes and functions. The key mechanism for dynamic control of the conformations of these DNA/RNA nanodevices is a reaction called strand displacement, in which one strand in a formed duplex is replaced by a third invading strand. While DNA/RNA strand displacement has mainly been used to de novo design molecular devices, we argue in this review that this reaction is also likely to play a key role in multiple cellular events such as gene recombination, CRISPR-based genome editing, and RNA cotranscriptional folding. We introduce the general mechanism of strand displacement reaction, give examples of its use in the construction of molecular machines, and finally review natural processes having characteristic which suggest that strand displacement is occurring.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-249
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Structural Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019


  • Cotranscriptional folding
  • DNA
  • RNA
  • RNA folding
  • Strand displacement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology


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