Cooperative cargo transportation by a swarm of molecular machines

M. Akter, J. J. Keya, K. Kayano, A. M.R. Kabir, D. Inoue, H. Hess, K. Sada, A. Kuzuya, H. Asanuma, A. Kakugo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Cooperation is a strategy that has been adopted by groups of organisms to execute complex tasks more efficiently than single entities. Cooperation increases the robustness and flexibility of the working groups and permits sharing of the workload among individuals. However, the utilization of this strategy in artificial systems at the molecular level, which could enable substantial advances in microrobotics and nanotechnology, remains highly challenging. Here, we demonstrate molecular transportation through the cooperative action of a large number of artificial molecular machines, photoresponsive DNA-conjugated microtubules driven by kinesin motor proteins. Mechanical communication via conjugated photoresponsive DNA enables these microtubules to organize into groups upon photoirradiation. The groups of transporters load and transport cargo, and cargo unloading is achieved by dissociating the groups into single microtubules. The group formation permits the loading and transport of cargoes with larger sizes and in larger numbers over long distances compared with single transporters. We also demonstrate that cargo can be collected at user-determined locations defined by ultraviolet light exposure. This work demonstrates cooperative task performance by molecular machines, which will help to construct molecular robots with advanced functionalities in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereabm0677
JournalScience Robotics
Issue number65
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine(all)


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