The diagnosis of hereditary diseases and the identification of genetic fingerprints hinge on high-sensitivity DNA imaging biotechnologies. These imaging tools detect specific genes in cells using fluorophores—fluorescent tags that can illuminate DNA structures—and quenchers that interact with these tags to prevent them from emitting light, effectively working as an ‘off switch’.
In a development that expands the detection toolbox and the genetic alphabet, a team led by Ichiro Hirao from the RIKEN Systems and Structural Biology Center, Yokohama, has now designed an artificial base pair between a fluorophore (Dss) and quenchers (Pn and Px)¹. This method incorporates the pair into complementary DNA strands using polymerases and demonstrates that either Pn or Px can decrease the fluorescence of Dss upon hybridization.
Hirao and his team previously developed artificial base pairs involving Dss because of its strong fluorescence, which could illuminate DNA and RNA structures. “This time, we can put out the candle lit by Dss using the quencher as its pairing partner at will,” he says.
Hirao notes that this ability is unique because fluorescent dye Dss and quencher Pn face each other on their respective ssDNA strand, forming an artificial DNA base pair that also works in biological systems. He says that this close proximity results in strong ‘contact quenching’ of the fluorophore.
Usually, researchers have attached fluorophores and quenchers to natural bases through a linker that mediates so-called fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) between dyes. However, this process lacks efficiency compared to contact quenching. Also, according to Hirao, unlike the Dss–Pn system, typical fluorophore–quencher pairs cannot be introduced at specific positions in DNA strands using polymerases, limiting their applications.
After establishing that the pairs were compatible with natural DNA synthesis techniques, Hirao’s team integrated the Dss–Pn pair in the stem of molecular beacons—hairpin-shaped single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) structures that fluoresce upon hybridization with DNA targets. They found that the beacons detected the targets with high sensitivity and differentiated ssDNA containing one mismatched base.
Next, the researchers tested the performance of Dss–Px in polymerase chain reaction (PCR)—a powerful DNA amplification technique. Dss-bearing ssDNA fragments became less fluorescent upon assimilation of Px into synthesized DNA chains, allowing the team to monitor the amplification process in real time.
“One of our present tasks is to apply this system to in vivo cell experiments,” says Hirao. “If it is possible, we will be able see the on–off of a specific gene expression.”
The corresponding author for this highlight is based at the Nucleic Acid Synthetic Biology Research Team, RIKEN Systems and Structural Biology Center
1. Kimoto, M., Mitsui, T. Yamashige, R., Sato, A., Yokoyama, S. & Hirao, I. A new unnatural base pair system between fluorophore and quencher base analogues for nucleic acid-based imaging technology. Journal of the American Chemical Society 132, 15418–15426 (2010).
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy