Nav: Home

Scientists now know what DNA's chaperone looks like

November 27, 2019

It's long been known that the proteins that package DNA, like students at a high school dance, require a chaperone. But what exactly that guardian looks and acts like has been a mystery--until now.

A team of researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder has cracked the puzzle of the Facilitates Chromatin Transcription (FACT) protein structure. This protein is partly responsible for making sure everything goes smoothly and no improper interactions take place when DNA temporarily sheds and replaces its guardian proteins, or histones.

These findings, which are the result of a project five years in the making at CU Boulder and out today in the journal Nature, will have ripple effects for not only our understanding of the genome and gene transcription, but for our understanding of cancer and the development of anti-cancer drugs.

"This is just the start for this protein. It's not the end," said Yang Liu, a research associate in the Department of Biochemistry at CU Boulder and one of the study's lead authors.

Ever since its discovery in 1998, the FACT protein has been of great interest for those who study DNA, largely because of the possibilities it presents. But, despite decades of effort, many of the central questions of how the protein works remain unanswered.

The FACT protein is an essential type of histone chaperone. These guardian proteins escort other proteins during the deconstruction and reconstruction of nucleosomes, or the structural unit responsible for organizing and packaging DNA. This happens during gene transcription (the step where DNA is copied into RNA), DNA replication (where the entire genome is replicated faithfully) and DNA damage repair (which is essential to prevent disease such as cancer).

However, with no clear structure for the protein available, scientists have been less than clear as to how exactly it does both: How does one protein both destroy and maintain?

This new research sheds light on both.

"For a long time, people have been trying to find the mechanism behind how [this protein] helps transcription," said Keda Zhou, a research associate in biochemistry at CU Boulder and the other lead author for the paper. "People have been working on different aspects of this protein, so we're really happy that we're the first to see it in action. It's really exciting."

The research team, aided by two other labs also led by women also managed to finally solve the puzzle by isolating the FACT protein and, through a combination of hard-work, ingenuity and tenacity, map it out and catch it in the act of both destroying and maintaining the nucleosome.

What they found is that FACT resembles the saddle and fork of a unicycle, made up of multiple domains that straddle the nucleosome 'wheel' of the unicycle. Up until that point, researchers were seeing only one domain at a time, causing confusion and contradictory results.

And yet, it appears that none of those differing findings are wrong.

Liu and Zhou's work "really put everything together. And it seems like everybody's right, which is just really cool," said Karolin Luger, the endowed chair of biochemistry at CU Boulder, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and the study's senior author.

This discovery is only the beginning for this protein, both for Luger's lab and the broader medical community.

"There are lots of unknowns," said Zhou. "But this is a starting point."
-end-
Other coauthors on the new study include researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas, National Resource for Automated Molecular Microscopy and Columbia University.

University of Colorado at Boulder

Related Dna Articles:

A new twist on DNA origami
A team* of scientists from ASU and Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) led by Hao Yan, ASU's Milton Glick Professor in the School of Molecular Sciences, and director of the ASU Biodesign Institute's Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics, has just announced the creation of a new type of meta-DNA structures that will open up the fields of optoelectronics (including information storage and encryption) as well as synthetic biology.
Solving a DNA mystery
''A watched pot never boils,'' as the saying goes, but that was not the case for UC Santa Barbara researchers watching a ''pot'' of liquids formed from DNA.
Junk DNA might be really, really useful for biocomputing
When you don't understand how things work, it's not unusual to think of them as just plain old junk.
Designing DNA from scratch: Engineering the functions of micrometer-sized DNA droplets
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) have constructed ''DNA droplets'' comprising designed DNA nanostructures.
Does DNA in the water tell us how many fish are there?
Researchers have developed a new non-invasive method to count individual fish by measuring the concentration of environmental DNA in the water, which could be applied for quantitative monitoring of aquatic ecosystems.
Zigzag DNA
How the cell organizes DNA into tightly packed chromosomes. Nature publication by Delft University of Technology and EMBL Heidelberg.
Scientists now know what DNA's chaperone looks like
Researchers have discovered the structure of the FACT protein -- a mysterious protein central to the functioning of DNA.
DNA is like everything else: it's not what you have, but how you use it
A new paradigm for reading out genetic information in DNA is described by Dr.
A new spin on DNA
For decades, researchers have chased ways to study biological machines.
From face to DNA: New method aims to improve match between DNA sample and face database
Predicting what someone's face looks like based on a DNA sample remains a hard nut to crack for science.
More DNA News and DNA Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Debbie Millman: Designing Our Lives
From prehistoric cave art to today's social media feeds, to design is to be human. This hour, designer Debbie Millman guides us through a world made and remade–and helps us design our own paths.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#574 State of the Heart
This week we focus on heart disease, heart failure, what blood pressure is and why it's bad when it's high. Host Rachelle Saunders talks with physician, clinical researcher, and writer Haider Warraich about his book "State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease" and the ails of our hearts.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Insomnia Line
Coronasomnia is a not-so-surprising side-effect of the global pandemic. More and more of us are having trouble falling asleep. We wanted to find a way to get inside that nighttime world, to see why people are awake and what they are thinking about. So what'd Radiolab decide to do?  Open up the phone lines and talk to you. We created an insomnia hotline and on this week's experimental episode, we stayed up all night, taking hundreds of calls, spilling secrets, and at long last, watching the sunrise peek through.   This episode was produced by Lulu Miller with Rachael Cusick, Tracie Hunte, Tobin Low, Sarah Qari, Molly Webster, Pat Walters, Shima Oliaee, and Jonny Moens. Want more Radiolab in your life? Sign up for our newsletter! We share our latest favorites: articles, tv shows, funny Youtube videos, chocolate chip cookie recipes, and more. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.