Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists see DNA get 'sunburned' for the first time

02.02.2007
For the first time, scientists have observed DNA being damaged by ultraviolet (UV) light.

Ohio State University chemists and their colleagues in Germany used a special technique to watch strands of DNA in the laboratory sustain damage in real time.

They observed the most common chemical reaction among a family of reactions on the DNA molecule that are linked to sunburn, and discovered that this key reaction happens with astounding speed -- in less than one picosecond, or one millionth of one millionth of a second.

Scientists are studying UV damage to understand the role it plays in sunburn and diseases such as skin cancer. This new finding, reported in the current issue of the journal Science, shows that the damage depends greatly on the position of the DNA at the moment the UV strikes the molecule.

... more about:
»DNA »chemical reaction »reaction »sunburn »sustain »thymine

UV light excites the DNA molecule by adding energy, said Bern Kohler, associate professor of chemistry at Ohio State. Some exited energy states last a long time, and others a short time. The energy often decays away harmlessly, but occasionally it triggers a chemical reaction that alters the DNA's molecular structure.

Previously, scientists believed that the longer a DNA molecule was excited by UV energy, the greater the chance that it would sustain damage. So long-lived excited states were thought to be more dangerous than short-lived ones. But this study shows that the most common UV damage is caused by a very short-lived excited state.

"The speed of this reaction has important consequences for understanding how DNA is damaged by UV light," said Kohler. "In this study, we didn't see any evidence that long-lived energy states are responsible for damage. Now it seems more likely that short-lived states cause the most common chemical damage to DNA."

That damage consists of two tiny molecular bonds that form where they shouldn't -- between two thymine bases stacked together among the billions of bases in the DNA double helix.

DNA employs some chemical reactions of its own to heal itself. But when DNA sustains too much damage, it can't replicate properly. Badly damaged cells simply die -- the effect that gives sunburn its sting. Scientists also believe that chronic damage creates mutations that lead to diseases such as skin cancer.

For this study, the chemists used a technique called transient absorption to observe the DNA damage. Transient absorption is based on the idea that molecules absorb light at specific wavelengths, and it allows researchers to study events that happen in less than a picosecond.

They took specially designed strands of DNA -- ones made solely of thymine bases, in order to boost the chance of observing a reaction between adjacent thymines -- and exposed them to UV light. Then they timed the reactions that caused the new thymine bonds to form.

Kohler stressed that he and his colleagues examined damage to isolated DNA strands, not DNA within a cell. Sunburn results from a series of chemical reactions in a living cell, and so this experiment did not allow them to see a cell sustain sunburn.

This is, however, the first time anyone has observed the initial molecular events behind damage to DNA. Kohler thinks the results might make scientists attack the problem of UV damage in a new way.

DNA in a cell is always moving, he explained. It bends and twists one way or another because it is a relatively flexible molecule. This flexibility enables the normal chemical reactions that are constantly happening in the cell. Each shape-shift can require anywhere from a few to several hundred picoseconds to complete.

That's fast, but this new study shows that UV damage happens many times faster. On the timescale that the unwanted bonds form, even a rapidly moving DNA molecule would essentially appear frozen.

That means that whether or not two thymine bases are damaged depends on the position of the DNA during the extremely brief time required for it to absorb UV light. Either two thymine bases are lined up in just the right way to bond when the UV hits, or they're not.

"This insight explains why some pairs of thymine bases get damaged more frequently than others, and it suggests that scientists can understand damage patterns to DNA by studying the factors that influence how the bases are arranged in space," Kohler said.

"In our efforts to understand photo-damage, this new result shifts our attention to the DNA structure, and the kinds of arrangements that exist at the moment DNA absorbs light."

His coauthors on the paper include Carlos E. Crespo-Hernandez, a former postdoctoral researcher at Ohio State ; and Wolfgang J. Schreier, Tobias E. Schrader, Florian O. Koller, Peter Gilch, Wolfgang Zinth, Vijay N. Swaminathan, and Thomas Carell, all of Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich .

The research was funded in part by the National Institute of General Medical Science at the National Institutes of Health, and by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation of Germany.

Bern Kohler | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.chemistry.ohio-state.edu

Further reports about: DNA chemical reaction reaction sunburn sustain thymine

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution
27.03.2017 | Lancaster University

nachricht Parallel computation provides deeper insight into brain function
27.03.2017 | Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Northern oceans pumped CO2 into the atmosphere

27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Big data approach to predict protein structure

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>