Scrolling Headlines:

UMass hockey can’t take advantage of strong start in 6-1 loss to Boston College -

January 21, 2017

High-powered Eagles soar past UMass -

January 21, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers disappointing loss to St. Bonaventure at Mullins Center Thursday -

January 19, 2017

REPORT: Tom Masella out as defensive coordinator for UMass football -

January 19, 2017

Zach Lewis, bench carry UMass men’s basketball in win over St. Joe’s -

January 19, 2017

UMass women’s basketball handles Duquesne at home -

January 16, 2017

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

January 13, 2017

UMass football hosts Maine at Fenway Park in 2017 -

January 12, 2017

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

January 11, 2017

UMass women’s track and field takes second at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 5 Boston University at Frozen Fenway -

January 8, 2017

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 8, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers brutal loss on road against Saint Joseph’s -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops thirds straight, falls to VCU 81-64 -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops tightly-contested conference matchup against George Mason Wednesday night -

January 4, 2017

Late-game defense preserves UMass women’s basketball’s win against rival Rhode Island -

January 4, 2017

AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center -

January 4, 2017

UMass professor to appear as contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’ Thursday night -

January 4, 2017

UMass Chemistry Professors discover molecular secret

PJS_2825

Collegian File Photo

Two scientists in the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Chemistry Department have discovered how DNA and RNA form a stable enough structure to allow for transcription, the process where information stored in DNA is copied out to RNA, according to a recent press release.

The discovery by the chemists, Professor Craig Martin and graduate student Xiaoqing Liu, was found during a preliminary phase of transcription, called elongation. During this phase, the DNA strand opens up and a molecule called RNA polymerase forms a loop around both the DNA strand and the RNA strand that the information is being copied to. According to the release, this process had been previously thought of incorrectly in two-dimensional terms. It was believed that the RNA polymerase inserted itself between RNA and DNA, where in reality, in a three-dimensional model, the RNA wraps around these two strands.

Transcription, a vital step in the life of the cell, occurs in several different ways. When the DNA is transcribed into RNA codes for a protein, the RNA is called messenger RNA. DNA can also code for ribosomal RNA and transfer RNA.

DNA, deoxynucleic acid, is a double helix-shaped molecule that stores genetic information in cells. Its primary components are thymine, adenine, guanine and cytosine. RNA, which stands for ribonucleic acid, is involved in making use of the information stored in the DNA, especially for manufacturing proteins. It has all the same molecules as DNA, except that thymine is replaced with uracil.  

Martin and Liu call the structure a topological lock. According to the press release, the topological lock concept helps to explain two key features that had been mysteries to scientists before. One mystery is why most transcription processes involve eight base pairs. The release explains that the topological lock model has determined eight to be the most efficient number for accurate transcriptions. The model also explains how the “transcription bubble” that forms when all the various molecules are doing their jobs remains stable instead of breaking apart and scattering their pieces.

Their findings have appeared in the Journal of Biological Chemistry and the two chemists will continue their research. Martin will focus on RNA polymerase and RNA synthesis.

Matthew M. Robare writes for the Collegian. He can be reached at mrobare@student.umass.edu.

Comments
2 Responses to “UMass Chemistry Professors discover molecular secret”
  1. To clarify, everyone has always known that the nascent RNA strand wraps around the template DNA strand, but most had not appreciated that this can contribute significantly to stability. Our results suggest that this topological lock may be the primary contributor to stability in transcribing elongation complexes, with base pairing of only minor importance.

  2. Van Meter says:

    Deoxynucleic acid…? Well almost…

    Awesome discovery though. Keep up the good work UMass!

Leave A Comment