Emily Singer

A View from Emily Singer

Real-Time Footage of an Enzyme Interacting with DNA

The technique could shed light on DNA repair.

  • September 20, 2007

For the first time, scientists have been able to observe in real time the interaction between an enzyme and its DNA target. The findings could have implications for research on cancer, which can occur when enzymes fail to repair damaged DNA.

Using a technique known as fast-scan atomic force microscopy (AFM), researchers from Edinburgh, Japan, India, and Cambridge, U.K., filmed a bacterial enzyme attaching to the DNA of a virus trying to infect the bacterium.

In a press release on the research from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, which funded the work, lead researcher Robert Henderson explains,

“This is the first time that such a process has been seen in real time. To be able [to] see these nano-mechanisms as they are really happening is incredibly exciting. We can actually see the enzyme ‘threading’ through a loop in the virus’s DNA in order to lock on to and break it, a process known as DNA cleavage.

“The microscope and new techniques give us a clear view of the molecular interactions between proteins and DNA that we could only previously interpret indirectly. The indirect methods require scientists to make assumptions to interpret their data, and video footage like this can help to provide a more direct understanding of what is really happening.

“Standard technology for filming on this scale can only produce one image frame every 8 minutes. However, our new work allows one frame per 500–or fewer, milliseconds.

“This helps us understand how enzymes recognise which bit of a DNA strand to latch onto, which is important in understanding how proteins repair damaged DNA. In the long term, this could help in the search for cancer treatments, as cancer sometimes occurs where DNA is damaged but enzymes do not behave correctly in order to repair it.”

The latest Insider Conversation is live! Listen to the story behind the story.

Subscribe today
Already a Premium subscriber? Log in.

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Rewriting Life

Reprogramming our bodies to make us healthier.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look: exclusive early access to important stories, before they’re available to anyone else

    Insider Conversations: listen in on in-depth calls between our editors and today’s thought leaders

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.