Lecture Notes in Computer Science Volume 3384, 2005, pp 62-75

Error Free Self-assembly Using Error Prone Tiles

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Abstract

DNA self-assembly is emerging as a key paradigm for nano-technology, nano-computation, and several related disciplines. In nature, DNA self-assembly is often equipped with explicit mechanisms for both error prevention and error correction. For artificial self-assembly, these problems are even more important since we are interested in assembling large systems with great precision.

We present an error-correction scheme, called snaked proof-reading, which can correct both growth and nucleation errors in a self-assembling system. This builds upon an earlier construction of Winfree and Bekbolatov [11], which could correct a limited class of growth errors. Like their construction, our system also replaces each tile in the system by a k × k block of tiles, and does not require changing the basic tile assembly model proposed by Rothemund and Winfree [8].

We perform a theoretical analysis of our system under fairly general assumptions: tiles can both attach and fall off depending on the thermodynamic rate parameters which also govern the error rate. We prove that with appropriate values of the block size, a seed row of n tiles can be extended into an n × n square of tiles without errors in expected time \(\widetilde{O}(n)\) , and further, this square remains stable for an expected time of \(\widetilde{\Omega}(n)\) . This is the first error-correction system for DNA self-assembly that has provably good assembly time (close to linear) and provable error-correction. The assembly time is thesame, up to logarithmic factors, as the time for an irreversible, error-free assembly.

We also did a preliminary simulation study of our scheme. In simulations, our scheme performs much better (in terms of error-correction) than the earlier scheme of Winfree and Bekbolatov, and also much better than the unaltered tile system.

Our basic construction (and analysis) applies to all rectilinear tile systems (where growth happens from south to north and west to east). These systems include the Sierpinski tile system, the square-completion tile system, and the block cellular automata for simulating Turing machines. It also applies to counters, a basic primitive in many self-assembly constructions and computations.