Researchers at Stanford University have created a larger-than-normal DNA molecule that is copied almost as efficiently as natural DNA. The findings, reported in the Oct. 25 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), may reveal new insights into how genetic mutations-tiny mistakes that occur during DNA replication-arise. The discovery was made in the laboratory of Eric Kool, a professor of chemistry at Stanford and co-author of the PNAS study.
DNA, the genetic encoder of life, comes in two parallel strands that form a double helix. Its like a long, twisted ladder where each rung consists of two molecules that form a base pair. DNA has four bases: adenosine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G) and cytosine (C). A always pairs with T, and G with C. To copy itself, the DNA molecule unwinds and splits. Either strand is now a template to build a new DNA molecule. An enzyme-a protein that speeds the reaction, in this case the bacteria E. colis DNA polymerase I-moves along the template and selects the corresponding base to create a new base pair.
DNA bases fit into a specialized site on the enzyme before they are bonded to the template. Kool wanted to see how the enzyme reacts if the bases are not the usual size. The idea was to see how DNA replication depends on size, Kool says.
Mark Shwartz | EurekAlert!
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