Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Base pair


Modern whole-organism genome analysis, in combination with biomass estimates, allows us to estimate a lower bound on the total information content in the biosphere: 5.3 × 1031 (±3.6 × 1031) megabases (Mb) of DNA. Given conservative estimates regarding DNA transcription rates, this information content suggests biosphere processing speeds exceeding yottaNOPS values (1024 Nucleotide Operations Per Second). Although prokaryotes evolved at least 3 billion years before plants and animals, we find that the information content of prokaryotes is similar to plants and animals at the present day. This information-based approach offers a new way to quantify anthropogenic and natural processes in the biosphere and its information diversity over time.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Genetics, Archaea, Organism, RNA, Base pair


In order to explore the diversity and selective signatures of duplication and deletion human copy number variants (CNVs), we sequenced 236 individuals from 125 distinct human populations. We observed that duplications exhibit fundamentally different population genetic and selective signatures than deletions and are more likely to be stratified between human populations. Through reconstruction of the ancestral human genome, we identify megabases of DNA lost in different human lineages and pinpoint large duplications that introgressed from the extinct Denisova lineage now found at high frequency exclusively in Oceanic populations. We find that the proportion of CNV base pairs to single nucleotide variant base pairs is greater among non-Africans than it is among African populations, but we conclude that this difference is likely due to unique aspects of non-African population history as opposed to differences in CNV load.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Evolution, Copy number variation, Human genome, Genome, Base pair


Genomes are composed of long strings of nucleotide monomers (A, C, G and T) that are either scavenged from the organism’s environment or built from metabolic precursors. The biosynthesis of each nucleotide differs in atomic requirements with different nucleotides requiring different quantities of nitrogen atoms. However, the impact of the relative availability of dietary nitrogen on genome composition and codon bias is poorly understood.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Bacteria, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Organism, RNA, Base pair


Single-molecule techniques facilitate analysis of mechanical transitions within nucleic acids and proteins. Here, we describe an integrated fluorescence and magnetic tweezers instrument that permits detection of nanometer-scale DNA structural rearrangements together with the application of a wide range of stretching forces to individual DNA molecules. We have analyzed the force-dependent equilibrium and rate constants for telomere DNA G-quadruplex (GQ) folding and unfolding, and have determined the location of the transition state barrier along the well-defined DNA-stretching reaction coordinate. Our results reveal the mechanical unfolding pathway of the telomere DNA GQ is characterized by a short distance (<1 nm) to the transition state for the unfolding reaction. This mechanical unfolding response reflects a critical contribution of long-range interactions to the global stability of the GQ fold, and suggests that telomere-associated proteins need only disrupt a few base pairs to destabilize GQ structures. Comparison of the GQ unfolded state with a single-stranded polyT DNA revealed the unfolded GQ exhibits a compacted non-native conformation reminiscent of the protein molten globule. We expect the capacity to interrogate macromolecular structural transitions with high spatial resolution under conditions of low forces will have broad application in analyses of nucleic acid and protein folding.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Protein structure, Base pair, Protein folding, Hydrogen bond, Telomere, Nucleotide


Sensitive and specific methodologies for detection of pathogenic gene at the point-of-care are still urgent demands in rapid diagnosis of infectious diseases. This work develops a simple and pragmatic electrochemical biosensing strategy for ultrasensitive and specific detection of pathogenic nucleic acids directly by integrating homogeneous target-initiated transcription amplification (HTITA) with interfacial sensing process in single analysis system. The homogeneous recognition and specific binding of target DNA with the designed hairpin probe triggered circular primer extension reaction to form DNA double-strands which contained T7 RNA polymerase promoter and served as templates for in vitro transcription amplification. The HTITA protocol resulted in numerous single-stranded RNA products which could synchronously hybridized with the detection probes and immobilized capture probes for enzyme-amplified electrochemical detection on the biosensor surface. The proposed electrochemical biosensing strategy showed very high sensitivity and selectivity for target DNA with a dynamic response range from 1 fM to 100 pM. Using salmonella as a model, the established strategy was successfully applied to directly detect invA gene from genomic DNA extract. This proposed strategy presented a simple, pragmatic platform toward ultrasensitive nucleic acids detection and would become a versatile and powerful tool for point-of-care pathogen identification.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Transcription, Virus, RNA, Base pair, RNA polymerase


Organisms are defined by the information encoded in their genomes, and since the origin of life this information has been encoded using a two-base-pair genetic alphabet (A-T and G-C). In vitro, the alphabet has been expanded to include several unnatural base pairs (UBPs). We have developed a class of UBPs formed between nucleotides bearing hydrophobic nucleobases, exemplified by the pair formed between d5SICS and dNaM (d5SICS-dNaM), which is efficiently PCR-amplified and transcribed in vitro, and whose unique mechanism of replication has been characterized. However, expansion of an organism’s genetic alphabet presents new and unprecedented challenges: the unnatural nucleoside triphosphates must be available inside the cell; endogenous polymerases must be able to use the unnatural triphosphates to faithfully replicate DNA containing the UBP within the complex cellular milieu; and finally, the UBP must be stable in the presence of pathways that maintain the integrity of DNA. Here we show that an exogenously expressed algal nucleotide triphosphate transporter efficiently imports the triphosphates of both d5SICS and dNaM (d5SICSTP and dNaMTP) into Escherichia coli, and that the endogenous replication machinery uses them to accurately replicate a plasmid containing d5SICS-dNaM. Neither the presence of the unnatural triphosphates nor the replication of the UBP introduces a notable growth burden. Lastly, we find that the UBP is not efficiently excised by DNA repair pathways. Thus, the resulting bacterium is the first organism to propagate stably an expanded genetic alphabet.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Bacteria, Genome, RNA, Base pair, Nucleotide


A framework for open discourse on the use of CRISPR-Cas9 technology to manipulate the human genome is urgently needed.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Human genome, Human Genome Project, Genome, Genomics, Base pair


Obesity stimulates chronic inflammation in adipose tissue, which is associated with insulin resistance, although the underlying mechanism remains largely unknown. Here we showed that obesity-related adipocyte degeneration causes release of cell-free DNA (cfDNA), which promotes macrophage accumulation in adipose tissue via Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9), originally known as a sensor of exogenous DNA fragments. Fat-fed obese wild-type mice showed increased release of cfDNA, as determined by the concentrations of single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) and double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) in plasma. cfDNA released from degenerated adipocytes promoted monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) expression in wild-type macrophages, but not in TLR9-deficient (Tlr9 (-/-) ) macrophages. Fat-fed Tlr9 (-/-) mice demonstrated reduced macrophage accumulation and inflammation in adipose tissue and better insulin sensitivity compared with wild-type mice, whereas bone marrow reconstitution with wild-type bone marrow restored the attenuation of insulin resistance observed in fat-fed Tlr9 (-/-) mice. Administration of a TLR9 inhibitory oligonucleotide to fat-fed wild-type mice reduced the accumulation of macrophages in adipose tissue and improved insulin resistance. Furthermore, in humans, plasma ssDNA level was significantly higher in patients with computed tomography-determined visceral obesity and was associated with homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), which is the index of insulin resistance. Our study may provide a novel mechanism for the development of sterile inflammation in adipose tissue and a potential therapeutic target for insulin resistance.

Concepts: Immune system, DNA, Gene, Base pair, Obesity, Cellular differentiation, Insulin resistance, Adipose tissue


We describe a novel single molecule nanopore-based sequencing by synthesis (Nano-SBS) strategy that can accurately distinguish four bases by detecting 4 different sized tags released from 5'-phosphate-modified nucleotides. The basic principle is as follows. As each nucleotide is incorporated into the growing DNA strand during the polymerase reaction, its tag is released and enters a nanopore in release order. This produces a unique ionic current blockade signature due to the tag’s distinct chemical structure, thereby determining DNA sequence electronically at single molecule level with single base resolution. As proof of principle, we attached four different length PEG-coumarin tags to the terminal phosphate of 2'-deoxyguanosine-5'-tetraphosphate. We demonstrate efficient, accurate incorporation of the nucleotide analogs during the polymerase reaction, and excellent discrimination among the four tags based on nanopore ionic currents. This approach coupled with polymerase attached to the nanopores in an array format should yield a single-molecule electronic Nano-SBS platform.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Adenosine triphosphate, RNA, Base pair, Phosphate, Nucleotide


Binding specificity of Cas9-guide RNA complexes to DNA is important for genome-engineering applications; however, how mismatches influence target recognition/rejection kinetics is not well understood. Here we used single-molecule FRET to probe real-time interactions between Cas9-RNA and DNA targets. The bimolecular association rate is only weakly dependent on sequence; however, the dissociation rate greatly increases from <0.006 s(-1) to >2 s(-1) upon introduction of mismatches proximal to protospacer-adjacent motif (PAM), demonstrating that mismatches encountered early during heteroduplex formation induce rapid rejection of off-target DNA. In contrast, PAM-distal mismatches up to 11 base pairs in length, which prevent DNA cleavage, still allow formation of a stable complex (dissociation rate <0.006 s(-1)), suggesting that extremely slow rejection could sequester Cas9-RNA, increasing the Cas9 expression level necessary for genome-editing, thereby aggravating off-target effects. We also observed at least two different bound FRET states that may represent distinct steps in target search and proofreading.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Transcription, Base pair, Nucleotide, Uracil, Reaction rate