Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers measure the ’heat of life,’ offering clues to DNA damage

18.11.2003


A Rutgers-led team has produced the first ever measurement of the "heat of life" – the energies involved in DNA replication and synthesis. The researchers’ findings have opened the door to a better understanding of the origins of replication errors that can result in genetic mutations and serious illness. This is crucial knowledge for the development of medical diagnostics and treatments of genetic disorders.



"Our measurements represent the first direct determination of the energies and their transformations in this most fundamental process in biological chemistry," said principal investigator Kenneth J. Breslauer, Linus C. Pauling Professor, and dean and director of the Division of Life Sciences, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

Breslauer explained that the measurements can be used to construct a virtual landscape that traces the precise energy differences between correct and incorrect DNA synthesis. The differential energy signatures signal the presence of DNA damage, potentially repairable by protein systems inside the cell or specifically designed drugs administered from the outside, or both.


"Knowing the nature and magnitude of the forces involved in correct and incorrect DNA synthesis is essential for rationally designing strategies for intervention, including new drug therapies," said Breslauer. "This knowledge can position us to begin to intervene, enabling us to halt incorrect synthesis through the introduction of highly targeted external agents.

"The only reason we are not a bunch of mutants walking around is that we have exquisite repair systems that can recognize these damaged sites and repair them before they replicate. And, if they do escape initial repair and replicate, we have additional repair systems that find the damage that was replicated and delete it," said Breslauer, noting the contributions of Rutgers’ recent National Medal of Science winner Evelyn Witkin to an understanding of these repair systems.

On rare occasions, both systems fail and when they do, a damaged piece of DNA can be carried on to the next generation. This might result in a particular protein not being able to be made in the offspring or even in the parent. Or, it might result in the improper regulation of a gene that controls cell growth, thereby precipitating uncontrolled growth and the formation of tumors.

DNA reproduces by acting as a template for copying itself, using ingredients available within the cell. Replication, the same as synthesis in this case, is required for any organism to develop, grow and pass on its genetic information. DNA damage is fairly common, a byproduct of our environment and normal metabolism.

In a paper appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Breslauer and his colleagues describe their use of a novel combination of technology and chemical biology. They employed the world’s most sensitive thermal detection system, accurate to a millionth of a calorie, to measure reaction heats in a uniquely formulated "DNA soup."

"The degree to which this constitutes a breakthrough will be determined by how researchers here and elsewhere build upon it," Breslauer continued. "It is a foundation that is a necessary, but not sufficient, step in the direction of being able to understand and to regulate DNA synthesis, not only in the lab, but in living organisms."

The Human Genome Project and subsequent revelations provided by X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) have taught us a great deal about structure in biological systems. Breslauer points out, however, that there is still much to be learned about function and overall driving forces.

He makes the analogy of an automobile, in which knowing what all its component parts look like – the engine, the transmission, the brakes, etc. – still won’t allow you to fix the car if it is not running properly, unless you know the function of each part and the energy transfer between parts.

"These energy studies are essential to bridge the gap between structure and function, a bridge that is needed for our understanding of how biological processes operate and are controlled," Breslauer said.

Joseph Blumberg | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.rutgers.edu/
http://www.pnas.org/misc/journalist.shtml

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New application for acoustics helps estimate marine life populations
16.01.2018 | University of California - San Diego

nachricht Unexpected environmental source of methane discovered
16.01.2018 | University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

Im Focus: A thermometer for the oceans

Measurement of noble gases in Antarctic ice cores

The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Morbid Obesity: Gastric Bypass and Sleeve Gastrectomy Are Comparable

17.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Researchers identify new way to unmask melanoma cells to the immune system

17.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Genetic discovery may help better identify children at risk for type 1 diabetes

17.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>