Deciphering the structure of DNA toroids

Brewer, L.R. (2011) Deciphering the structure of DNA toroids. Integrative Biology, 3(5), p. 540. (doi: 10.1039/c0ib00128g)

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Toroids are small donut shaped organizational units within sperm chromatin and viruses containing DNA and protein. Investigators first characterized the dimensions of toroids created in vitro, in viruses and in decondensed sperm chromatin using transmission electron and atomic force microscopy. More recent measurements, performed using cryo-electron microscopy, have allowed experimenters to observe the hexagonal organization of DNA within viruses, and toroids created from DNA and cobalt hexammine. However, it has been difficult to obtain information about the assembly of DNA into a toroid, its structure and the biomechanical forces involved because of the limitations of these techniques. Similarly, biophysical studies of toroids utilizing techniques such as circular dichroism or light scattering are difficult to perform and interpret because toroids created using bulk DNA can aggregate and precipitate out of solution even at very low concentrations. The development of optical and magnetic traps has allowed experimenters to manipulate single DNA molecules within microfluidic, multichannel flow cells and measure the structural changes they undergo as they are transformed into toroids. During the past few years investigators have demonstrated that toroids consist of loops of DNA. They have observed the stepwise incorporation of these loops into a toroid that is not in contact with charged surfaces, which might affect its formation. The condensation of a constrained DNA molecule into a toroid was observed to significantly increase its tension, which reduced the size of the DNA loops that form the toroid. This structural information is important for understanding how genomic DNA is assembled and organized within the sperm cell and viruses. In this perspective we discuss what is known about the structure and formation of toroids, what has been learned recently using single molecule techniques and what remaining questions have the potential to be answered using these emerging technologies.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Brewer, Dr Laurence
Authors: Brewer, L.R.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Physics and Astronomy
Journal Name:Integrative Biology
ISSN (Online):1757-9708
Published Online:14 February 2011

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