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Harnessing DNA intercalation

Numerous small molecules are known to bind to DNA through base pair intercalation. Fluorescent dyes commonly used for nucleic acid staining, such as ethidium, are familiar examples. Biological and physical studies of DNA intercalation have historically been motivated by mutation and drug discovery research. However, this same mode of binding is now being harnessed for the creation of novel molecular assemblies. Recent studies have used DNA scaffolds and intercalators to construct supramolecular assemblies that function as fluorescent 'nanotags' for cell labeling. Other studies have demonstrated how intercalators can be used to promote the formation of otherwise unstable nucleic acid assemblies. These applications illustrate how intercalators can be used to facilitate and expand DNA-based nanotechnology.