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Enzymes allow DNA to swap information with exotic molecules
Date:3/21/2013

The discovery of the Rosetta Stone resolved a longstanding puzzle, permitting the translation of Egyptian hieroglyphs into Ancient Greek.

John Chaput, a researcher at Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute has been hunting for a biological Rosetta Stonean enzyme allowing DNA's 4-letter language to be written into a simpler (and potentially more ancient) molecule that may have existed as a genetic pathway to DNA and RNA in the prebiotic world.

Research results, which recently appeared in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, demonstrate that DNA sequences can be transcribed into a molecule known as TNA and reverse transcribed back into DNA, with the aid of commercially available enzymes.

The significance of the research is three-fold:

  • It offers tantalizing clues about how DNA and RNAwhich encode the building plans for all earthly lifemay have arisen from more primitive information-carrying molecules

  • Contributes to the field of exobiologythe search for alternative life forms elsewhere in the universe

  • Points to possible applications for TNA and other unusual nucleic acid molecules (known as xenonucleic acids or XNAs) in molecular medicine.

In the case of biomedical applications, XNAs may be developed into aptamersmolecular structures that can mimic the properties of naturally occurring polymers, folding into a variety of 3-dimensional forms and binding with selected targets. Aptamers are useful for a range of clinical applications including the development of macromolecular drugs.

"TNA is resistant to nuclease degradation, making it an ideal molecule for many therapeutic and diagnostic applications," Chaput says.

The structural plans for organisms ranging from bacteria to primates (including humans) are encrypted in DNA using an alphabetic code consisting of just A, C, T & G, which represent the 4 nucleic acids. In addition to t
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Contact: Joseph Caspermeyer
Joseph.Caspermeyer@asu.edu
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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