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KinDA: Kinetic DNA strand displacement analyzer

This package provides a framework for analyzing the kinetic behavior of domain-level strand displacement (DSD) reaction networks with nucleotide sequences assigned to each domain. KinDA optionally performs domain-level reaction enumeration using the Peppercorn enumerator ( Reaction enumeration may be skipped if detailed and condensed reactions are given directly to KinDA. Thermodynamic and kinetic statistics about the behavior of resting macrostates and condensed reactions are collected using Multistrand (, and may be computed at a desired level of precision using KinDA.

The principles underlying KinDA are introduced in the paper "Automated sequence-level analysis of kinetics and thermodynamics for domain-level DNA strand-displacement systems", by Joseph Berleant, Christopher Berlind, Stefan Badelt, Frits Dannenberg, Joseph Schaeffer and Erik Winfree, Journal of The Royal Society Interface, 2018 (

Questions and comments should be addressed to Erik Winfree

Trying out KinDA (Public AWS Image)

The easiest way to test out KinDA is through the publicly available Amazon Web Services (AWS) Amazon Machine Image (AMI). This image is available to all AWS users, and can be found in the "Community AMIs" section when creating a new EC2 instance, using the search query "KinDA v0.2". The scripts should run on a "t2.micro" instance, but we often use "c5.9xlarge" instances for serious simulations. matplotlib is installed with the Agg backend default, so it can output files (PDF, etc) but not produce graphics interactively.

A note about AWS regions: The KinDA AMI is currently only available in AWS's four U.S. subdivisions. If you are having trouble finding this AMI, your AWS region may be set outside the U.S. Please contact the project team if you cannot switch your account's region setting and would like us to copy the image to a new region.

Setup and Installation

The following instructions are intended for users wishing to setup KinDA on their own machine. They should not be necessary if using the public AWS AMI, which has KinDA and all its dependencies pre-installed.


KinDA requires Python 2.7+ to run. Python 3+ is not yet supported.

Prior to installing KinDA, make sure you have the following packages installed:

In addition, ensure the environment variable NUPACKHOME is set to the base directory of your NUPACK files.

KinDA will automatically install the following packages, if necessary:

You will need the future package to use the commandline KinDA interface, e.g. pip install future.
To run the plotting examples in the case studies, you will need matplotlib.


$ python install


$ python install --user

Getting Started

Quickstart: PIL files

PIL files describe the sequences, strands, and complexes in a DNA strand-displacement system. The file KinDA/examples/Zhang_etal_Science2007.pil describes an entropy-driven catalytic cascade.

The script found in the examples subdirectory of KinDA shows how to query basic data from a system described by a PIL file. For example, run the following from within the examples subdirectory of KinDA. This will take a few hours on a t2.micro instance, and proportionally less time on a faster multiprocessor instance.

$ python -i Zhang_etal_Science2007.pil

If you just want to see a script run, but don't have much time, try the (still not so fast) simple toehold-mediated strand displacement example below.

$ python -i simple.pil

You can make all this quicker (or slower) by changing the accuracy target and sampling limits, which are given in The comments are hopefully self-explanatory.
For example, for a well-under-one-minute run, you can edit the following lines in so that the target relative error is a loose 150% (that's the first argument value 1.5):

k1 = rxn_stats.get_k1(1.5, init_batch_size = 50, max_sims=500, verbose = 1) 
k2 = rxn_stats.get_k2(1.5, init_batch_size = 50, max_sims = 500, verbose = 1)
prob = rxn_stats.get_prob(1.5, verbose = 1) 
k_coll = rxn_stats.get_kcoll(1.5, verbose = 1) 

Either way, these scripts will dump you in the python shell at the end, where you can examine your data further, or look at KinDA documentation, e.g.


Gentle introduction: Pure Python scripts

KinDA objects can be created directly in a Python script using the kinda.objects package. For example:

# This Python file creates a simple toehold-exchange system.
# The objects are identical to those described in KinDA/examples/simple.pil

# Import kinda and kinda.objects
import kinda
import kinda.objects

# Create domains
t1 = kinda.objects.Domain(name = 't1', sequence = 'AAAGAT')
d2 = kinda.objects.Domain(name = 'd2', sequence = 'AGCTGACTTA')
t3 = kinda.objects.Domain(name = 't3', sequence = 'TCCCTT')

# Create strands
strand_top1 = kinda.objects.Strand(name = 'strand_top1', domains = [t1, d2])
strand_top2 = kinda.objects.Strand(name = 'strand_top2', domains = [d2, t3])
strand_base = kinda.objects.Strand(name = 'strand_base', domains = [t3.complement, d2.complement, t1.complement])

# Create complexes
T1Bound = kinda.objects.Complex(name = 'T1Bound', strands = [strand_top1, strand_base], structure = '((+.))')
T3Intruder = kinda.objects.Complex(name = 'T3Intruder', strands = [strand_top2], structure = '..')
T3Bound = kinda.objects.Complex(name = 'T3Bound', strands = [strand_top2, strand_base], structure = '((+)).')
T1Intruder = kinda.objects.Complex(name = 'T1Intruder', strands = [strand_top1], structure = '..')

# Create System object
system = kinda.System(complexes = [T1Bound, T3Intruder, T3Bound, T1Intruder])

# Get statistics about productive condensed reactions
reactions = system.get_reactions(spurious=False, unproductive=False)
reaction = reactions[0]
system.get_stats(reaction).get_k1(relative_error = 0.5, max_sims = 500)
system.get_stats(reaction).get_k2(relative_error = 0.5, max_sims = 500)

# Similar functions can be used to get information about resting sets (i.e. resting macrostates)

Gentle introduction: Input format

Currently, PIL Files must be input in old-style PIL notation. Support for new-style (kernel) notation is planned for a future release. This example file is specified in old-style notation:

# Zhang_etal_Science2007.pil
# This PIL file represents the entropy-driven catalyst system described by:
#  David Zhang, Andrew Turberfield, Bernard Yurke, Erik Winfree (Science, 2007)
#  Engineering Entropy-Driven Reactions and Networks Catalyzed by DNA
# See Figure 1B for description of each system component.

# Specify all domains
sequence d1 = CTTTCCTACA : 10
sequence t3 = CCCT : 4
sequence d4 = CATTCAATACCCTACG : 16
sequence t5 = TCTCCA : 6
sequence d6 = CCACATACATCATATT : 16

# Specify all strands
strand F = d2 t3 d4 : 44
strand C = d4 t5 : 22
strand OB = d1 d2 : 34
strand SB = d6 t3 d4 : 36
strand LB = t5* d4* t3* d2* : 50

# Specify all predicted complexes
structure Fuel = F : ...
structure Catalyst = C : ..
structure Substrate = OB + SB + LB : .(+.((+.)))
structure Waste = F + LB : (((+.)))
structure Signal = SB : ...
structure Output = OB : ..
structure Intermediate = OB + C + LB : .(+((+)).)

A deeper dive: The case studies

The directory case_studies contains scripts used to run the simulations described in the paper. You should take a look at the scripts themselves, as instructions for how to configure and run them are often included near the top.

Note that the simulations for Figure 9 were performed using a commandline interface to KinDA (placed in the scripts directory) that is explained in the Figure 9 directory's

Also note that some scripts produce plots using matplotlib, which on AWS should be able to produce PDF output files, but you won't be able to look at graphics interactively.

In the Amazon AMI, but not the GitHub repository, each case study directory has a subdirectory publication_data with KinDA data files that were generated for the paper. If you are not using the AMI, this data can be obtained from (

Configuration Options

The file kinda/ contains optional arguments that may be modified to change the default behavior of Multistrand, Peppercorn, NUPACK, and KinDA. This file must be modified prior to installation to set the default behavior.

kinda/ contains four dict objects:

  • kinda_params: General parameters for KinDA and its interactions with Multistrand, NUPACK, and Peppercorn
  • multistrand_params: Parameters for Multistrand, given directly to Multistrand when constructing a Multistrand.Options object
  • nupack_params: Parameters for NUPACK, given directly to NUPACK when calling its sample executable.
  • peppercorn_params: Parameters for Peppercorn enumeration, given to the enumerator just prior to enumeration

The initialization function for the System object accepts an optional keyword argument for each of these dicts. Each keyword argument should be supplied as a dict object, whose key-value pairs will override the defaults in kinda/




Joseph Berleant, Chris Berlind, Stefan Badelt, Frits Dannenberg, Joseph Schaeffer, and Erik Winfree


Kinetic DNA strand displacement analyzer




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