Medicine

A New Structure of DNA Network Discovered by Researchers

A New Structure of DNA Network Discovered by Researchers

When most of us think of DNA, we think of the double helix.

Laurence Hurley, a professor at the University of Arizona and the chief scientific officer of Reglagene, a company that designs therapeutic molecules to target four-stranded DNA like i-motifs, says, "This provides a firm foundation for a major therapeutic effort around these new structures, and it takes away the doubt that people have had [about] whether these structures were real and had any biological significance".

A new type of human DNA that does not resemble the double helix shape has emerged in a study performed in a laboratory in Australia.

Crucially, the antibody fragment didn't detect DNA in helical form, nor did it recognise "G-quadruplex structures" (a structurally similar four-stranded DNA arrangement).

While the researchers are still not sure what the i-motif's goal is, the finding may help with interpreting DNA sequences.

The structure of the double-helix DNA comes from adenine binding with thymine and cytosine binding with guanine. The tangled shape, known as an i-motif, had been seen before in the lab, but few researchers expected it to occur in human cells. For the objective of the latest study, scientists developed an antibody to detect and identify i-motifs in the genome with an immunofluorescent glow.

"These alternative DNA conformations might be important for proteins in the cell to recognise their cognate DNA sequence and exert their regulatory functions", Zeraati explained to ScienceAlert.

It is located in chromosomes the cell nucleus and nearly every cell in a person's body has the same DNA.

He added that the new work lends credence to the idea that these unusual DNA shapes may play an essential role in human biology, perhaps by regulating gene expression.

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By using fluorescent dyes on the tool, the researchers identified numerous spots of green within the nucleus, indicating the position of the i-motifs.

They found that i-motifs formed at particular points in the cell's "life cycle" when the DNA is being actively "read". They have also shown that the new DNA structure appears in areas where the DNA controls whether the genes are activated or not in telomere, the sections at the end of the chromosomes that are important in the aging process.

"We think the coming and going of the i-motifs is a clue to what they do".

'What excited us most is that we could see the green spots - the i-motifs - appearing and disappearing over time, so we know that they are forming, dissolving and forming again, ' said Dr Mahdi Zeraati, whose research underpins the study's findings.

The researchers also think this transient nature is the reason this form of DNA has eluded scientists for so long.

"It seems likely that they are there to help switch genes on or off, and to affect whether a gene is actively read or not".

As senior author Marcel Dinger puts it, "These findings will set the stage for a whole new push to understand what this new DNA shape is really for".

Details of the study can be found in the April 23 edition of the journal Nature Chemistry.


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