Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors





Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


DHgate

Home > Press > Rice physicists help unravel mystery of repetitive DNA segments

Abstract:
Scientists gather clues by measuring forces needed to stretch single strands of DNA

Rice physicists help unravel mystery of repetitive DNA segments

Houston, TX | Posted on December 8th, 2010

With new tools that can grab individual strands of DNA and stretch them like rubber bands, Rice University scientists are working to unravel a mystery of modern genomics. Their latest findings, which appear in Physical Review Letters, offer new clues about the physical makeup of odd segments of DNA that have just one DNA base, adenine, repeated dozens of times in a row.

These mysterious "poly(dA) repeats" are sprinkled throughout the human genome. Scientists have also found them in the genomes of animals, plants and other species over the past decade. But researchers do not know why they are there, what function they perform or why they occur only with the DNA base adenine and not the other three DNA bases -- cytosine, guanine and thymine.

"Previous investigations of poly(dA) have suggested that adenine bases stack in a very uniform way," said Ching-Hwa Kiang, a co-author of the new study and assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Rice. "Our investigation focused on what happens when single strands of poly(dA) were stretched and these stacks were pulled apart."

Kiang's research group specializes in studying the physical and mechanical properties of proteins and nucleic acids, and their primary tool is one of the mainstays of nanotechnology research -- the atomic force microscope, or AFM. The business end of an AFM is like a tiny phonograph needle. The tip of the needle is no more than a few atoms wide, and the needle is at the end of an arm that bobs up and down over the surface of what is being measured. While nanotechnologists use the device to measure the thickness of samples, Kiang's group uses it in a different way.

To begin her experiments, Kiang first places a thin coating of the proteins she wishes to study on a flat surface. This is placed under the AFM arm so the bobbing AFM needle can dip down and grab the ends of one of the proteins. As the arm retracts, it unravels the protein.

All proteins fold into a characteristic shape. Like tiny springs, they remain in this compact "lowest energy" state unless they are pried apart.

The new study on poly(dA) was conducted by Kiang, Rice graduate student Wuen-shiu Chen and colleagues at Rice and National Chung Hsing University (NCHU) in Taiwan. The team discovered that poly(dA) behaves differently depending upon the speed with which it is stretched. When the AFM bobbed rapidly, the poly(dA) segments behaved like any other segment of single-stranded DNA. But when the AFM motion was slowed, the team found that the amount of force required to stretch the poly(dA) changed. At two particular locations, the strand lengthened for a short distance without any additional force at all.

"Typically, single strands of DNA behave like a rubber band: The resistance increases as they stretch, meaning you have to pull harder and harder to continue stretching them," Kiang said. "With poly(dA), we found these two points where that doesn't apply. It's as if you have to pull harder and harder, and then for a brief time, the band stretches with no additional force whatsoever."

Kiang said the exact causes and implications of the phenomenon are unclear. But scientists know that double-stranded DNA must be pried apart at discrete locations so that the cell's machinery can read the genetic code and convert it into proteins. There has been some speculation that the adenine repeats play a role in ordering genomic information; Kiang said the new findings raise even more questions about the role the repeats might play in gene regulation and genome packaging and how they might be potential targets for cancer drugs.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Welch Foundation and the Rice Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering's Hamill Innovation Fund. Study co-authors include Rice undergraduate students Zephan Chen and Ashton Gooding, exchange graduate student Wei-Hung Chen from NCHU and NCHU Professor of Chemistry Kuan-Jiuh Lin.

####

About Rice University
Located in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked one of America's best teaching and research universities. Known for its "unconventional wisdom," Rice is distinguished by its: size -- 3,279 undergraduates and 2,277 graduate students; selectivity -- 12 applicants for each place in the freshman class; resources -- an undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio of 5-to-1; sixth largest endowment per student among American private research universities; residential college system, which builds communities that are both close-knit and diverse; and collaborative culture, which crosses disciplines, integrates teaching and research, and intermingles undergraduate and graduate work.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Jade Boyd
713-348-6778

Copyright © Rice University

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Seeing quantum motion August 30th, 2015

Artificial leaf harnesses sunlight for efficient fuel production August 30th, 2015

Researchers use DNA 'clews' to shuttle CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool into cells August 30th, 2015

Draw out of the predicted interatomic force August 30th, 2015

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Seeing quantum motion August 30th, 2015

Artificial leaf harnesses sunlight for efficient fuel production August 30th, 2015

Researchers use DNA 'clews' to shuttle CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool into cells August 30th, 2015

Draw out of the predicted interatomic force August 30th, 2015

Academic/Education

Announcing Oxford Instruments and School of Physics signing a Memorandum of Understanding August 26th, 2015

Kwansei Gakuin University in Hyogo, Japan, uses Raman microscopy to study crystallographic defects in silicon carbide wafers August 25th, 2015

JPK reports on the use of a NanoWizard® AFM-SECM system at the Université Paris Diderot looking at nanoscale biostructures August 18th, 2015

Rice, Penn State open center for 2-D coatings: National Science Foundation selects universities to develop atom-thin materials with industry partners August 13th, 2015

Nanomedicine

Researchers use DNA 'clews' to shuttle CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool into cells August 30th, 2015

Iranian Scientists Use Artemisia Annua Plant to Produce Breast Cancer Drugs August 29th, 2015

Small but heading for the big time: Nanobiotix half year results for the six months ended 30 June 2015, in line with expectations: Major clinical achievements and corporate developments August 28th, 2015

A new technique to make drugs more soluble August 28th, 2015

Announcements

Seeing quantum motion August 30th, 2015

Artificial leaf harnesses sunlight for efficient fuel production August 30th, 2015

Researchers use DNA 'clews' to shuttle CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool into cells August 30th, 2015

Draw out of the predicted interatomic force August 30th, 2015

Tools

Nanolab Technologies LEAPS Forward with High-Performance Analysis Services to the World: Nanolab Orders Advanced Local Electrode Atom Probe (LEAP®) Microscope from CAMECA Unit of AMETEK Materials Analysis Division August 27th, 2015

Nanometrics to Participate in the Citi 2015 Global Technology Conference August 26th, 2015

50 Years of Scanning Electron Microscopy from ZEISS: ZEISS celebrates the birth of the first commercial scanning electron microscope in 1965 August 26th, 2015

Announcing Oxford Instruments and School of Physics signing a Memorandum of Understanding August 26th, 2015

Nanobiotechnology

Researchers use DNA 'clews' to shuttle CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool into cells August 30th, 2015

Small but heading for the big time: Nanobiotix half year results for the six months ended 30 June 2015, in line with expectations: Major clinical achievements and corporate developments August 28th, 2015

Nanotechnology that will impact the Security & Defense sectors to be discussed at NanoSD2015 conference August 25th, 2015

Louisiana Tech University researchers discover synthesis of a new nanomaterial: Interdisciplinary team creates biocomposite for first time using physiological conditions August 24th, 2015

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







Car Brands
Buy website traffic