DNA and RNA: recognition, organisation and maintenance
The genetic code of many organisms and viruses has been cracked, but still leaves us in the dark on the exact functioning of DNA and RNA. Therefore we look beyond the code and investigate the structure, dynamics, physics and maintenance of genetic material of various organisms .
Image: Genomes are organized and compacted by chromatin proteins that either bridge, bend or wrap DNA.
By: Michel Olsthoorn and Remus Dame
Topics within this research theme
Architectural proteins drive compaction and organization of genomic material into chromatin. These proteins modulate DNA accessibility and thereby affect numerous processes in the cell, among which transcription, replication and repair. We study the basic principles of DNA-folding in bacteria and archaea as to date very little is known about it. We attempt to reveal universal principles through biochemistry, genetics, microscopy and single molecule experiments.
DNA folds around eight histon proteins to form nucleosomes and linear chains of nucleosomes fold up further into chromatin fibers. We study the physics behind DNA folding at both levels, but also the distances between genes in living eukaryotic cells. Because these experiments require special equipment, we build new microscopes and set-ups.
RNA viruses have many properties, unwanted as well as convenient ones. They can for instance cause ‘slippery sequences’, resulting in frame shifts and thereby translation problems. On the other hand, some viruses can be used to target tumor cells. We want to understand the behavior and structure of viral RNA itself, but we also want to repair frame shifts and target tumor cells using viruses.