Date Published: 1 July 2011
Biocompatible artificial DNA linker that is read through by DNA polymerases and is functional in Escherichia coli
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Click chemistry creates new 'stealth' DNA links
Recent research has pioneered a chemical method of linking DNA strands that is tolerated by living organisms. Researchers at Southampton University (Hampshire, England) have developed an artificial DNA "stealth" linkage using click chemistry, which is a highly-efficient chemical reaction, to connect DNA strands without disrupting the genetic code. This is a significant scientific breakthrough which may enable long sections of DNA to be created quickly and efficiently using chemical methods.
DNA strands are widely used in biological and medical research and clean and effective methods of making longer sections have great value. Current techniques rely on the use of enzymes as biological catalysts. Joining DNA chemically is significant because it does not involve the use of enzymes and so can be carried out on a large scale under a variety of conditions.
Co-author of the paper Tom Brown, Professor of Chemical Biology at the University of Southampton, said:
" We believe this is the first example of a chemical method of joining together longer strands of DNA that works well.
_ Typically, synthesised DNA strands will be up to 150 bases; beyond that they are very difficult to make. We have doubled that to 300 and we can go further. We can also join together heavily modified DNA strands, used in medical research for example, which normal enzymes might not want to couple together. "
The research team tested whether or not the artificial links would be tolerated biologically within the bacteria E.coli. (They used colonies of E.coli to research biocompatibility.)
" The genetic code could still be correctly read," said co-investigator Dr Ali Tavassoli.
" The artificial linkages act in stealth as they go undetected by the organism; the gene was functional despite containing 'scars' in its backbone. This opens up all sorts of possibilities."
What about the future, what will happen next? The UK research team that pioneered a chemical method of linking DNA strands that is tolerated by living organisms hopes to obtain funding to investigate potential applications of this technology.
"Biocompatible artificial DNA linker that is read through by DNA polymerases and is functional in Escherichia coli" by Afaf H. El-Sagheer, A. Pia Sanzone, Rachel Gao, Ali Tavassoli and Tom Brown, is published online by PNAS, 27 June 2011.