Anyone who has ever battled a stuck zipper knows it's a good idea to see what's stuck, where and how badly -- and then to pull hard.
A Cornell research team's experiments involve the "unzipping" of single DNA molecules. By mapping the hiccups, stoppages and forces along the way, they have gained new insight into how genes are packed and expressed within cells.
The research, “High-resolution dynamic mapping of histone-DNA interactions in a nucleosome,” published online Jan. 11, 2009, in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, was led by Michelle Wang, associate professor of physics and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Collaborators on the project included physics graduate student Michael Hall and John Lis, the Barbara McClintock Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics.
DNA – the molecules that contain genetic information – are nucleic acids often illustrated as long, thin strands of double helices. DNA fits inside cell nuclei by being wound like thread around proteins called histones, forming tightly packed bundles called nucleosomes. But that same DNA must often be uncoiled and accessed by such enzymes as RNA polymerase, which the researchers liken to a motor because it moves along the DNA in the process of gene transcription.
"There is this paradox," Lis explained. "On one hand you need compaction and the packing away of DNA. On the other hand, you need accessibility, so the cellular machines can read the information contained in the DNA."
Trying to understand what happens during that unwrapping process is at the heart of this research team's efforts. By unzipping each DNA double helix through a nucleosome using an optical trap -- a technique developed in Wang's lab -- they unwrapped strands of DNA from their histone cores, observing, with near-base pair accuracy, the interactions that took place along the way.
"Our hope is that if we can establish and understand the interactions within the nucleosome, we can begin to understand how the motor proteins can invade the nucleosome," Wang said.
Optical trapping involves a focused beam of light that can "trap" small objects. A refractive sphere is chemically attached to the DNA strand, and the optical trap moves the sphere, allowing the researchers to unzip the DNA strands apart by pulling, Hall explained. By doing so, the researchers re-created what happens in the cell when DNA uncoils from the histone core, and they measured the blips along the way -- for example, when the DNA strand had to be pulled apart from a protein molecule -- and how much force was needed to keep going.
"It's really like a zipper," Hall said. "And when there is a protein in there, it's kind of like you have a piece of cloth stuck. You know you can get it out, but you just have to pull harder, and then it pops out. That's basically the same way we can detect where the interactions are with the proteins."
The researchers have performed the first direct, precise measurements of histone-DNA interactions. Their findings could help uncover how changes to the histones or DNA sequences affect how motor proteins access genetic information in cells.
"If we have that knowledge, we can extrapolate that information to apply to different scenarios and different motor motions," Wang said.
Blaine Friedlander | Newswise Science News
Further reports about: > Cells > DNA > DNA molecules > DNA sequence > High-resolution dynamic mapping > Interaction between water and forest > Molecular > Molecular Biology > Molecules > RNA polymerase > double helices > gene transcription > genetic information > hiccups > histone-DNA interactions > nucleic acids > synthetic biology > unzipping
Antimicrobial substances identified in Komodo dragon blood
23.02.2017 | American Chemical Society
New Mechanisms of Gene Inactivation may prevent Aging and Cancer
23.02.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)
In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport
Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...
The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.
The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...
Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...
Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".
Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...
13.02.2017 | Event News
10.02.2017 | Event News
09.02.2017 | Event News
23.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.02.2017 | Earth Sciences
23.02.2017 | Life Sciences