Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California are reporting today at the 229th national meeting of the American Chemical Society progress toward the creation of a system for replicating a modified form of DNA containing an unnatural base pair.
According to the Scripps Research scientists, this finding is a significant step towards expanding the genetic code and the ability of DNA to act as an information storage and retrieval system in the test tube and in simple, engineered organisms, such as yeast or bacteria. DNA with three or more base pairs could find broad applications in a number of fields, including biotechnology, medicine, data storage, and security.
Instead of just the canonical base pairs "G-C" or guanine–cytosine, and "A-T" or adenine–thymine, the Scripps Research scientists DNA has a third pairing: "3FB-3FB" between two unnatural bases called 3-fluorobenzene (or 3FB). Unlike other unnatural base pairs, DNA polymerases are able to replicate this base pair, albeit with reduced fidelity. To improve replication, the scientists also reported the development of a system capable of evolving polymerases to better recognize 3FB in DNA. Using a selection system some liken to evolution in the test tube, they are creating their own "polymerase" enzyme able to replicate the unnatural DNA.
Jason Socrates Bardi | EurekAlert!
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