Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

"Altered State" May Be Responsible For Creating Important Brain Chemicals

Date:
June 11, 1999
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
Twenty years after visualizing a surprising left-handed form of the DNA double helix, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher Alexander Rich has found that this altered form of genetic material is involved in some important biological activities, including creating proteins essential for normal brain function. Rich's work is funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Twenty years after visualizing a surprising left-handed form of the DNA double helix, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher Alexander Rich has found that this altered form of genetic material is involved in some important biological activities, including creating proteins essential for normal brain function. Rich's work is funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Related Articles


In the 1970s, when Rich and his colleagues solved for the first time the three-dimensional structure of a DNA crystal fragment, they were puzzled. Instead of looking like the right-handed double helix Watson and Crick had described in 1953, the structure was a left-handed double helix with an irregular zig-zag backbone.

Is this unusual form of DNA, dubbed Z-DNA by the researchers, an oddity or is it biologically significant? In this week's issue of the journal Science, Rich and colleagues partly resolve the issue. They describe how the three-dimensional structure of Z-DNA binds to a portion of an enzyme. The enzyme binds to Z-DNA with great specificity, leading scientists to conclude that the two serve a biological function. The enzyme creates a modified protein that is used by the brain as a receptor for serotonin, among other things. Yet another striking example of nature's ability to perform many functions with the same materials, the protein bound to Z-DNA is closely related in three-dimensional structure to a family of proteins known to bind to right-handed DNA.

"This work clearly demonstrates that DNA structure is not symmetric or regular," explains Kamal Shukla, program director for biophysics at NSF. "Rich's results will be important to a better understanding of gene expression, viral DNA packaging and many other important biological functions."

Adds Rich, "Twenty years after first visualizing a left-handed form of the DNA double helix, it may now be possible to see ways in which nature uses this altered form of the molecule to carry out important biological activities."

Much has been learned about Z-DNA since it was first discovered. It turns out that Z-DNA is found only transiently when genes are actively being transcribed. It occurs mainly in specialized sequences of nucleotides, the building blocks of genetic material, and is stabilized by processes that partially unwind the normal right-handed DNA double helix. The main process that produces such an unwinding is transcription (the synthesis of messenger RNA), which is used as a template for assembling proteins in biological systems.

The system works this way: When the enzyme making RNA, called RNA polymerase, moves along the DNA double helix, it leaves behind underwound DNA. Selected sequences in this DNA temporarily become left-handed Z-DNA, like a stretched phone cord coiling backwards on itself.

When the RNA polymerase stops moving, other enzymes relax the DNA and it reverts to its normal right-handed form. Like a stretched phone cord that is released, it snaps back into its usual shape.

Rich's work is also funded by the National Institutes of Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. ""Altered State" May Be Responsible For Creating Important Brain Chemicals." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 June 1999. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/06/990611075000.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (1999, June 11). "Altered State" May Be Responsible For Creating Important Brain Chemicals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/06/990611075000.htm
National Science Foundation. ""Altered State" May Be Responsible For Creating Important Brain Chemicals." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/06/990611075000.htm (accessed January 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

Newsy (Jan. 25, 2015) More schools are using online classes to keep from losing time to snow days, but it only works if students have Internet access at home. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weird Things Couples Do When They Lose Their Phone

Weird Things Couples Do When They Lose Their Phone

BuzzFeed (Jan. 24, 2015) Did you back it up? Do you even know how to do that? Video provided by BuzzFeed
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 23, 2015) A Boston start-up is developing a wristband they say will help users break bad habits by jolting them with an electric shock. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amazing Technology Allows Blind Mother to See Her Newborn Son

Amazing Technology Allows Blind Mother to See Her Newborn Son

RightThisMinute (Jan. 23, 2015) Not only is Kathy seeing her newborn son for the first time, but this is actually the first time she has ever seen a baby. Kathy and her sister, Yvonne, have been legally blind since childhood, but thanks to an amazing new technology, eSight glasses, which gives those who are legally blind the ability to see, she got the chance to see the birth of her son. It&apos;s an incredible moment and an even better story. Video provided by RightThisMinute
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins