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Open Access Software

EGNAS: an exhaustive DNA sequence design algorithm

Alfred Kick12, Martin Bönsch1 and Michael Mertig12*

Author Affiliations

1 Professur für Physikalische Chemie, Mess- und Sensortechnik, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden 01062, Germany

2 Kurt-Schwabe-Institut für Mess- und Sensortechnik e.V. Meinsberg, Kurt-Schwabe-Straße 4, Ziegra-Knobelsdorf 04720, Germany

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BMC Bioinformatics 2012, 13:138  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-13-138

Published: 20 June 2012



The molecular recognition based on the complementary base pairing of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the fundamental principle in the fields of genetics, DNA nanotechnology and DNA computing. We present an exhaustive DNA sequence design algorithm that allows to generate sets containing a maximum number of sequences with defined properties. EGNAS (Exhaustive Generation of Nucleic Acid Sequences) offers the possibility of controlling both interstrand and intrastrand properties. The guanine-cytosine content can be adjusted. Sequences can be forced to start and end with guanine or cytosine. This option reduces the risk of “fraying” of DNA strands. It is possible to limit cross hybridizations of a defined length, and to adjust the uniqueness of sequences. Self-complementarity and hairpin structures of certain length can be avoided. Sequences and subsequences can optionally be forbidden. Furthermore, sequences can be designed to have minimum interactions with predefined strands and neighboring sequences.


The algorithm is realized in a C++ program. TAG sequences can be generated and combined with primers for single-base extension reactions, which were described for multiplexed genotyping of single nucleotide polymorphisms. Thereby, possible foldback through intrastrand interaction of TAG-primer pairs can be limited. The design of sequences for specific attachment of molecular constructs to DNA origami is presented.


We developed a new software tool called EGNAS for the design of unique nucleic acid sequences. The presented exhaustive algorithm allows to generate greater sets of sequences than with previous software and equal constraints. EGNAS is freely available for noncommercial use at webcite.

DNA sequence design algorithm; Hairpin; stem-and-loop structure; Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP); Single-base extension (SBE); Polymerase chain reaction (PCR); DNA computing; DNA origami