Molecular motors of nucleic acid: Researchers work to improve screening of helicase-targeting drugs

Oct 04, 2012
Molecular motors of nucleic acid
Credit: Thinkstock

European scientists investigated the dynamic unfolding of DNA during replication by generating a tool that could subsequently be applied to screen helicase-targeting drugs for infection and oncologic applications.

In order to study the mechanical unfolding and refolding of various molecules including proteins and , and determine misfolded states, special equipment and techniques are required. To this end, and atomic force microscopes are proving extremely versatile tools that facilitate access to the inner functioning of biomolecules at an unprecedented level of detail.

The European Sminafel project focused on the activity of the helicase enzymes that assist the replication-repair of DNA. By hydrolysing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), these proteins convert chemical energy to the unzipping of the .

Scientists developed and optimised an optical tweezer-related technology that enabled the investigation of helicase function. More specifically, a DNA hairpin was fixed onto coated beads between a micropipette and an optical trap, and fluxing of the helicase and ATP solutions was facilitated through a microfluidics system. Various parameters of the system, including the valves and the length of the were standardised to allow efficient opening of the DNA hairpin, allowing the measurement of helicase activity.

Experimental results showed that the amplitude of fluctuations in the helicase activity remained constant independently of ATP concentration. The only determinant factors proved to be the opening-closing fluctuations of the .

The Sminafel technology constituted a significant step towards understanding the functioning of molecular motors involved in the DNA molecular repair and duplication machinery. The developed system is envisioned to provide a unique tool for studying various biomolecules in detail.

Explore further: Researchers discover protein protecting against chlorine

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Gene's function may give new target for cancer drugs

Sep 12, 2012

(Phys.org)—Purdue University scientists have determined that a gene long known to be involved in cancer cell formation and chemotherapy resistance is key to proper RNA creation, an understanding that could one day lead ...

Recommended for you

'Hairclip' protein mechanism explained

7 hours ago

Research led by the Teichmann group on the Wellcome Genome Campus has identified a fundamental mechanism for controlling protein function. Published in the journal Science, the discovery has wide-ranging implications for bi ...

Discovery in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria

9 hours ago

For four years, researchers at Universite catholique de Louvain have been trying to find out how bacteria can withstand antibiotics, so as to be able to attack them more effectively. These researchers now understand how one ...

Stem cells born out of indecision

9 hours ago

Scientists at the University of Copenhagen have gained new insight into embryonic stem cells and how blocking their ability to make choices explains why they stay as stem cells in culture. The results have just been published ...

User comments : 0

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.