Determining exactly how proteins connect with specific DNA sequences in human cells has eluded researchers and scientists for years. While it has been possible to record the speed at which a protein could bond with DNA, little was known about how proteins located and connected with a specific pattern of DNA to allow genes to express themselves in the form of traits such as facial appearance, hair and eye color or behaviors.
In the July 16 issue of the journal Science, Rutgers-Newark chemistry professor Babis Kalodimos offers a solution to this puzzle in his paper, "Structure and Flexibility Adaptation in Nonspecific and Specific Protein-DNA Complexes." Kalodimos’ findings may be the clue researchers need to develop future methods to inhibit the expression of certain genes that may pre-dispose individuals to harmful diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Through the use of the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, Kalodimos and his co-workers were able to determine how proteins slide along the lengthy strands forming the helix structure of DNA until they reach their intended destination – a specific DNA sequence. More important, they illustrated in detail how proteins single out their partner DNA out of millions of non-functional ones.
Peter Haigney | EurekAlert!
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