• Symmetrical DNA discovery - what does this mean for Genetic Signalling?
    David Grainger

News & Views

Symmetrical DNA discovery - what does this mean for Genetic Signalling?

Jun 18 2021

“Most of the studies on gene signalling overlook the symmetry, but we think this is incredibly significant and represents a whole new level of regulating genes that has not yet been investigated.” David Grainger

The discovery by researchers at the University of Birmingham that single-celled bacteria have symmetrical DNA ‘signposts’ means that individual sections of DNA code can be read  in both directions.

First identified by scientists in the 1960’s, DNA signposts indicate the start of different sections carrying information on a specific process that must be read before the information can be used. It was previously assumed that these genetic sequences could only be read in one direction. The precise reasons for the two-directional reading are not yet clear; one theory the team at Birmingham is considering is that it helps to avoid reading ‘collisions’ with other sequences.

Code reading fundamental in biotechnology

The study’s lead author, Professor David Grainger, explained: “Most of the studies on gene signalling overlook the symmetry, but we think this is incredibly significant and represents a whole new level of regulating genes that has not yet been investigated.”

“Understanding how genes are read is fundamental to many branches of biotechnology. Lots of medicines, for example, are dependent on being able to control how genes are read, so it’s important to fully understand how these signals work and how we can use that knowledge to improve healthcare.”

Although the current study focuses mainly on bacteria, the team speculate that the signpost symmetry is likely to be found in humans, animals and other organisms too. The next step for the research will be to investigate the phenomenon in yeast cells which more closely resemble human cells.

Published in Nature Microbiology

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