Ultraviolet (UV) light damages skin by causing chemical bonds to form in the wrong places along the DNA molecules in our cells. Normally, other, even smaller molecules called photolyases heal the damage. Sunburn happens when the DNA is too damaged to repair, and cells die.
Photolyases have always been hard to study, in part because they work in tiny fractions of a second. In this week’s online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Ohio State physicist and chemist Dongping Zhong and his colleagues describe how they used ultra-fast pulses of laser light to spy on a photolyase while it was healing a strand of DNA.
This is the first time that anyone has observed this enzyme motion without first attaching a fluorescent molecule to the photolyase, which disturbs its movements. They were able to see the enzyme’s motion to help the healing process as it happens in nature.
“Now that we have accurately mapped the motions of a photolyase at the site of DNA repair, we can much better understand DNA repair at the atomic scale, and we can reveal the entire repair process with unprecedented detail,” said Zhong, the Robert Smith Associate Professor of Physics, and associate professor in the departments of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio State.
Such small motions are very hard to study. Typically, researchers deal with the problem by attaching tiny bits of fluorescent molecules to the enzymes they are trying to study. But adding an extra molecule to an enzyme such as photolyase could change how it moves.
“Once you tag it, you can’t be sure that the motions you detect are the true motions of the molecule as it would normally function,” Zhong explained.
So instead of using tags, he and his team took laser “snapshots” of a single photolyase in action in the laboratory. They mapped the shape and position of the photolyase molecule as it broke up the harmful chemical bonds in DNA caused by UV light. The whole reaction lasted only a few billionths of a second.
In nature, DNA avoids damage by converting UV rays into heat. Sunscreen lotions protect us by reflecting sunlight away from the skin, and also by dissipating UV as heat.
Sunburn happens when the DNA absorbs the UV energy instead of converting it to heat. This is due in part to the random position of the DNA molecule within our cells when the UV hits it. When the UV energy is absorbed, it triggers chemical reactions that form lesions -- errant chemical bonds -- along the DNA strand.
If photolyases are unable to completely repair the lesions, the DNA can’t replicate properly. Badly damaged cells simply die — that’s what gives sunburn its sting. Scientists also believe that chronic sun damage creates mutations that lead to diseases such as skin cancer.
The work in Zhong’s lab is fundamental to the understanding of how those molecules interact. Other researchers could use this information to design drugs to heal sun damage.
“Of course, the ultimate goal of studying DNA repair is to help design artificial systems to mimic it,” he said.
This work was funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Health, the Packard Foundation and the Sloan fellowship.Contact: Dongping Zhong, (614) 292-3044; Zhong.email@example.com
Dongping Zhong | Ohio State University
Researchers develop eco-friendly, 4-in-1 catalyst
25.04.2017 | Brown University
Transfecting cells gently – the LZH presents a GNOME prototype at the Labvolution 2017
25.04.2017 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
26.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
26.04.2017 | Health and Medicine
25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy