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Cornell University experts successfully identified a new method to examine how much a helix can resist when twisted. The recent study on DNA torsional stiffness could provide additional information regarding cell activity and functions.

DNA, Motor Proteins, and Helix Torsional Stiffness

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(Photo: Pixabay / WikiCommons)

DNA studies are crucial for us to understand more about how cells work. The advancement in cell studies has been a topic in numerous researches in our generation and has been a part of a series of medical advancements, including nano and biotechnology alike.

According to a report by PhysOrg, among the key interests of DNA researchers are the correlation of the DNA processes and their helical structure.

DNA, also known as deoxyribonucleic acid, is a type of biological material found in almost every organism on the planet. DNA is hereditary, and most cells found inside the human body have the exact DNA. DNA is also found in the mitochondria, but almost the total of DNA is located in the mitochondria.

DNA stores a collection of genetic codes that are composed of chemical bases, namely adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). Almost 3 billion bases are recorded to be contained in the human DNA, and over 99% of these bases are identical to all the individuals in the human population.

DNA rotates and twists as the motor protein goes through. As it moves, the motor protein creates tension, also known as the torsional resistance in the DNA. The motor proteins are responsible for transporting gene expressions across the DNA, but sometimes, the motor proteins pass through a DNA that has excessive resistance. When there is high torsional resistance, the motor protein will have difficulty moving.

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DNA Stiffness Measured Through Helix Twisting

DNA torsional stiffness is typical in genetic studies and is considered one of the foundations in DNA activities. However, the scientific community views torsional stiffness as a challenge, as limited information has been gathered regarding the process. To understand more about DNA torsional stiffness, experts have conducted research by measuring how hard the DNA can twist when struggling with end-to-end constant force.

Department of Physics in the College of Arts and Sciences' James Gilbert White, Distinguished Professor, Howard Hughes Medical Institute researcher, and Michelle Wang, principal author of the study, said that the comprehensive technique to measure DNA torsional stiffness came up in a clever way. The paper was published in the journal Physical Review Letters, titled "Torsional Stiffness of Extended and Plectonemic DNA."

Based on the study, the authors mentioned that the DNA is vulnerable and might be easy to twist by using an extremely low force. However, contrary to popular belief, Wang said in a report by the Cornell Chronicle that DNA contains a stiffness that is unfamiliar with the scientific community.

The method on DNA torsional stiffness measurement is expected to be a gateway to future genetic and bioscience investigations that involve twist-induced transitions in the DNA helix. By measuring the torsional stiffness of the DNA, biological implications of other DNA phases can also be added with further data.

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