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Z-DNA: the long road to biological function

Nature Reviews Genetics volume 4, pages 566572 (2003) | Download Citation

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Abstract

Biologists were puzzled by the discovery of left-handed Z-DNA because it seemed unnecessary. Z-DNA was stabilized by the negative supercoiling generated by transcription, which indicated a transient localized conformational change. Few laboratories worked on the biology of Z-DNA. However, the discovery that certain classes of proteins bound to Z-DNA with high affinity and great specificity indicated a biological role. The most recent data show that some of these proteins participate in the pathology of poxviruses.

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Author information

Affiliations

  1. Alexander Rich is at the Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Room 68-233, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.

    • Alexander Rich
  2. Shuguang Zhang is at the Center for Biomedical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Room NE47-379, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.

    • Shuguang Zhang

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Shuguang Zhang.

Glossary

ADAR1

The editing enzyme double-stranded RNA adenosine deaminase, which converts adenine to inosine in pre-mRNA. This enzyme has an N-terminal domain that binds tightly to Z-DNA.

ANTI- AND SYN-CONFORMATIONS

Nucleic-acid bases can rotate about the glycosyl bond. The Watson–Crick hydrogen-bonding atoms point away from the sugar in the anti-conformation (as in B-DNA), and have the opposite orientation in the syn-conformation. Purines can form the syn-conformation more easily than pyrimidines.

BROWNIAN MOTION

The random kinetic thermal motion of molecules.

DNA FIBRE X-RAY DIFFRACTION ANALYSIS

X-rays are scattered by electrons and if a molecule has regular periodicities, they will be detected by the diffraction pattern. In this technique, DNA molecules are orientated so that their long axes are parallel. Although the diffraction pattern can provide some information about the molecule, the conclusions are often tentative because the number of reflections is relatively small.

CIRCULAR DICHROISM

This method measures the difference in absorption of right and left circularly polarized light as it passes through a solution containing molecules that absorb at that wavelength. The circular-dichroism spectrum is plotted as a function of wavelength.

POLYTENE CHROMOSOME

A chromosome that has duplicated many times and has remained laterally associated so that it is visible, as seen in Drosophila salivary glands.

RAMAN SPECTRUM

Measures the vibrations of molecules that are usually influenced by the conformation of a molecule. This can be obtained from crystalline materials as well as materials in solution.

SINGLE-CRYSTAL X-RAY DIFFRACTION

In this technique, a molecule is crystallized to produce many repetitions that are organized in a regular three-dimensional array. This produces X-ray diffraction with a large number of reflections. Solution of the crystal structure can establish the conformation of the molecule because large amounts of redundant data are collected.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nrg1115

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