Using a tool kit of lasers, tiny beads and a Lego set, Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers have made the first measurement of the torsional, or twisting, elasticity of a single molecule of DNA.
The measurements reveal that DNA is significantly stiffer than previously thought and, when wound, may in fact provide enough power to be used as a sort of molecular, rubberband motor to propel nanomachines. Although that type of application may be well in the future, the studies are significant because they offer a blueprint for measuring the contortions that DNA undergoes during replication and other key processes.
The researchers, led by Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Carlos Bustamante, reported their research in the July 17, 2003, issue of the journal Nature. Bustamante and the papers two lead authors, graduate students Zev Bryant and Michael Stone, are at the University of California, Berkeley.
Jim Keeley | Howard Hughes Medical Institute
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