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: How calcium regulates mitochondrial carrier proteins

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

How calcium regulates mitochondrial carrier proteins

18 hours ago

Mitochondrial carriers are a family of proteins that play the key role of transporting a chemically diverse range of molecules across the inner mitochondrial membrane. Mitochondrial aspartate/glutamate carriers are part of ...

Team conducts unprecedented analysis of microbial ecosystem

19 hours ago

An international team of scientists from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and The Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) have completed a first-of-its-kind microbial analysis of a biological ...

Students create microbe to weaken superbug

Nov 25, 2014

A team of undergraduate students from the University of Waterloo have designed a synthetic organism that may one day help doctors treat MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant superbug.

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.