Almost three metres of tightly-coiled DNA strands fit into a cell’s nucleus. As DNA replicates, the strands unwind and unfold and then re-package into chromosomes, the genetic blueprints of life – but what happens if this process becomes entangled?
Untangling the heaps of DNA strings during cell division is the job of special enzymes called topoisomerases. How they achieve this feat may be simpler than previously thought, says U of T research. In a study published in the current online issue of Biophysical Journal, researchers used computer simulations to mimic the DNA mess inside the nucleus with a series of billions of linked and unlinked loops. Their calculations indicated that whether DNA molecules are interlinked is shown by the way they touch each other.
Interlinked DNA loops tend to touch in an easily recognizable hook-like way, fitting together perfectly; whereas strands of unlinked DNA molecules tend to curve away when they touch each other. The findings could have implications in designing new drugs to treat cancer and infectious diseases as uncontrolled DNA linking and tangling often result in cell death.
Karen Kelly | EurekAlert!
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