Professor sheds light on DNA mechanisms

July 17, 2009

By manipulating individual atoms in DNA and forming unique molecules, a Georgia State University researcher hopes to open new avenues in research towards better understanding the mechanisms of DNA replication and transcription, and perhaps leading to new treatments for diseases.

Chemistry and professor Zhen Huang and his lab were able, for the first time, to manipulate methyl and phosphate groups of molecules in DNA that has been altered to contain selenium in order to bring them close enough together to form .

Such interactions may reduce the energy needed for a process called DNA duplex separation, thereby playing a role in the unwinding of DNA, which must happen in order for the genetic code to be copied and transcribed during and transcription. The research also helps to explain how energy is used in the process, Huang said.

“Assume that you want to do something, like to move an object from downstairs to upstairs, or building a pyramid where heavy blocks have to be transported,” Huang said. “You need lots of energy for these processes.

“If you need lots of energy, it will be a slow process or become inhibited because it consumes too much energy.”

With DNA in humans, the genome is comprised of about 3 billion base pairs, which are part of DNA's “ladder” in the which forms the code that causes certain genetic traits. If it takes a lot of energy to unwind DNA in order to duplicate, the process is slowed. On the other hand, if cellular dividing is too fast, DNA isn’t copied properly with full length, which causes unhealthy cells to be formed.

New research directions may open from the study, which could also have practical implications, Huang said, such as better understanding how RNA, which is involved in protein synthesis, is transcribed and works.

If scientists know the shape and structure of and , scientists can design drugs to bind to the molecules in question — inhibiting the expression and progression of a disease, thus killing it off — whether it’s cancer, HIV or any other viruses.

The research appears in the June 8, 2009 edition of Chemical & Engineering News and in the June 2009 edition of Organic Letters.

Provided by Georgia State University (news : web)

Explore further: DNA constraints control structure of attached macromolecules

Related Stories

DNA constraints control structure of attached macromolecules

June 28, 2005

A new method for manipulating macromolecules has been developed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The technique uses double-stranded DNA to direct the behavior of other molecules. In previous ...

Backtracking on DNA

June 23, 2009

( -- Accuracy is essential for life, so in converting the information stored in DNA into a form in which it can be used, a high level of precision is required. Dr Tanniemola Liverpool from the Department of Mathematics, ...

Recommended for you

Organic semiconductors get weird at the edge

October 6, 2015

As the push for tinier and faster electronics continues, a new finding by scientists at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Monash University could help inform the design of the next generation of cheaper, more efficient ...

New polymer creates safer fuels

October 1, 2015

Before embarking on a transcontinental journey, jet airplanes fill up with tens of thousands of gallons of fuel. In the event of a crash, such large quantities of fuel increase the severity of an explosion upon impact. Researchers ...

Researchers print inside gels to create unique shapes

September 30, 2015

(—A team of researchers at the University of Florida has taken the technique of printing objects inside of a gel a step further by using a highly shear-rate sensitive gel. In their paper published in the journal ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.