Proteins critical for compacting DNA in preparation for cell division actually interact with the double helix to fashion it into a kind of “molecular Velcro,” researchers have discovered.
"When we began to pull it apart carefully, we saw it extend in a sawtooth pattern of force, like the click-click-click of Velcro unzipping," said HHMI investigator Carlos Bustamante.
Photo: Barbara Ries
The proteins, called condensins, are important for a variety of housekeeping processes in chromosomes, but the mechanics behind their function have been largely unknown. When the researchers alternately stretched and compressed a single molecule of DNA with condensins attached, they found that the DNA extended in stepwise “clicks,” akin to Velcro unzipping.
The successful manipulation of a single DNA molecule with condensin proteins attached makes it plausible to think about using a similar strategy to explore the machinery that processes chromosomes in the cell, said one of the studys senior authors, Carlos Bustamante, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.
Jim Keeley | HHMI
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