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DNA a nanowire: Reality or Myth

Satyam Priyadarshy*

Department of Chemistry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260

This is an abstract for a presentation given at the
Sixth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology.
There will be a link from here to the full article when it is available on the web.


DNA (deoxyribose nucleic acid) is the molecule of life. It stores the information required by cells to reproduce and live. It is also a wonderful molecule for the design and fabrication of the new technological devices. A typical DNA molecule consists of helical ladder of "planar" ring molecules commonly known as bases. There are four main bases for this structure: adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G) and cytosine (C). These bases are complimentary in the sense of binding together in their existence in DNA (AT and GC) are the complimentary pairs found in the double stranded DNA. Figure 1 shows a typical Watson-Crick model of DNA with only 10 bases pairs.

Figure 1

Figure 1


DNA is considered to be a dream molecule by the scientists and researchers working in the field of nanotechnology and nanoengineering. This is due to the fact that DNA acts a a scaffold for various atomic and molecular systems due to its molecular recognition property. In a recent experimental work long range electron transfer between a electron donor and an acceptor is studied and interpreted to be faster than any biomolecule mediated ET. Newer experiments could not see such a fast electron transfer rates and conculed that DNA is not a molecular wire. We have performed extensive large scale quantum chemical calculations and found the electronic conduction of DNA does not behave like a nano wire.

We will discuss the recent experimental work and also the role of quantum calculations in predicting conduction properties of DNA and other biologically important molecules.


  • Priyadarshy, S. ; Risser, S. M.; and Beratan, D. N. (1998) J. Biog. Inorg. Chem., 42 No. 15, November 15, pages 9458-9471. DNA mediated electron transfer.
  • Priyadarshy, S. ; Risser, S. M.; and Beratan, D. N. (1997) Chemistry & Biology, 4, pages 3-8. DNA: Insulator or Wire ?.
  • E. K. Wilson (1997) Chemical and Engineering News, 75, February 27, pages 33-39. DNA: Insulator or Wire ?.

*Corresponding Address:
Satyam Priyadarshy
Department of Chemistry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260
Phone: (412) 624 8589; Fax : (412) 624 8611
Email:; Web:


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