Sunday, August 1, 2021

Untwisting DNA Reveals New Force that Shapes Genomes


    Advanced microscope technology has allowed for the tertiary structure of DNA strands to better be understood and allowed for scientists to visualize how the genome organizes into these 3D structures. This new machinery uses high power lasers alongside chemical conditions that track fluorescent molecules to provide 10 times higher resolution than conventional microscopy. Prior to this new microscope technology it was not possible to analyze the tertiary structures of DNA closely. The new microscopes helped scientists draw correlations between the specific way DNA is transcribed and how it supercoils to form tertiary structures. Transcription was found to generate a force that moves across DNA strands like ripples through water. This is due to structural proteins known as cohesions that "surf" across DNA strands changing the shape of the genome in the process. Researchers believe that the discovery of the way cohesions affect the structure of DNA can help understand more about genetic and developmental disorders as it may be possible to draw correlations between diseases and tertiary structure folds. As DNA is condensed within a cell it forms many loops and coils which cause different sections of the DNA to interact with one another, allowing for individual cells to switch different information on and off. This new advancement shows that transcription aids in the process of determining which parts of the DNA fold to interact with each other. Until recently scientists were only able to predict where tertiary DNA loops were located but not their shape or what caused the coiling to form. The possibilities for this advanced form of microscopy are still being discovered.

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