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Researchers find new way to study how enzymes repair DNA damage
Date:1/28/2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Researchers at Ohio State University have found a new way to study how enzymes move as they repair DNA sun damage -- and that discovery could one day lead to new therapies for healing sunburned skin.

Ultraviolet (UV) light damages skin by causing chemical bonds to form in the wrong places along the DNA molecules in our cells. Normally, other, even smaller molecules called photolyases heal the damage. Sunburn happens when the DNA is too damaged to repair, and cells die.

Photolyases have always been hard to study, in part because they work in tiny fractions of a second. In this week's online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Ohio State physicist and chemist Dongping Zhong and his colleagues describe how they used ultra-fast pulses of laser light to spy on a photolyase while it was healing a strand of DNA.

This is the first time that anyone has observed this enzyme motion without first attaching a fluorescent molecule to the photolyase, which disturbs its movements. They were able to see the enzyme's motion to help the healing process as it happens in nature.

"Now that we have accurately mapped the motions of a photolyase at the site of DNA repair, we can much better understand DNA repair at the atomic scale, and we can reveal the entire repair process with unprecedented detail," said Zhong, the Robert Smith Associate Professor of Physics, and associate professor in the departments of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio State.

Such small motions are very hard to study. Typically, researchers deal with the problem by attaching tiny bits of fluorescent molecules to the enzymes they are trying to study. But adding an extra molecule to an enzyme such as photolyase could change how it moves.

"Once you tag it, you can't be sure that the motions you detect are the true motions of the molecule as it would normally function," Zhong explained.

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Contact: Dongping Zhong
Zhong.28@osu.edu
614-292-3044
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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