DNA folding, protein activities much more complex than expected

New molecular technologies are exposing unexpectedly high levels of DNA folding and complex protein-rich assemblages within the nucleus of cells that researchers say seriously challenge the textbook models. “What we are seeing suggests that there may be machinery, not yet identified, that controls the folding and the movements of enzymes that turn genes on and off,” noted one expert at the recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Structure of cog at the hub of metabolism reveals anti-ageing function

The structure of a key energy-releasing enzyme found in all animals is designed to minimise free radical production, an international team of researchers has reported in the journal Science. In a startling feat of structural biology, the team visualised the entire molecular structure of succinate dehydrogenase in the bacterium E. coli, allowing them to see for the first time how the protein’s three-dimensional shape helps prevent the formation of large quantities of these destructive oxygen atoms.

Researchers close in on natural solution to PCB contamination

An environmentally friendly solution to one of the world’s most notorious chemical contamination problems may be a step closer to reality, reports a research team from Purdue University and the University of British Columbia. The team has identified one of the key stumbling blocks that prevent microorganisms from decomposing PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), a persistent and potentially hazardous industrial chemical that has become nearly ubiquitous in the environment. While capitalizing on the discovery will take time, it could eventually show researchers how to teach microorganisms to break down PCBs into ecologically safe molecules, a process known as bioremediation.

PC group-think reports first success

For the first time, a distributed computing experiment has produced significant results that have been published in a scientific journal. Writing in the online edition of Nature magazine, Stanford University scientists describe how they — with the help of 30,000 personal computers — successfully simulated part of the complex folding process that a typical protein molecule undergoes to achieve its unique, three-dimensional shape.