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Press Release 08-184

More Spring in the Double Helix's Step

DNA proven softer than previously thought

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Graphic of strands of DNA showing variation in compression of base pairs.

The double helix of DNA has been thought to behave as a stiff elastic rod. However, current research has shown it is much softer than previously thought. The rungs of the DNA's ladder, or base pairs, can compress or elongate, coming up to 10 percent closer or farther apart than the average. Most surprisingly, the scientists found that if a base pair had compressed, the base pairs for at least the next two turns of the double helix were more likely to be compressed as well. Because this study has shown that regions of DNA affect neighboring regions, this might mean that proteins binding to DNA communicate at greater molecular distances than previously thought.

Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation


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Cover of October 17 issue of Science magazine.

The researchers' findings are published in the Oct. 17, 2008, issue of Science magazine.

Credit: Copyright 2008 AAAS


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