The Undergraduate Research Kaleidoscope Fall 2010

Individuals suffering from Friedrich’s ataxia, a neuromuscular hereditary disease, have expansions of the DNA triplet repeat GAA/TTC in their genomic DNA. Preliminary investigations into the disease point to the ability of triplet repeats to adopt unusual DNA structures, such as matched and mismatched triplexes. This paper presents a novel method to probe the secondary structure of nucleic acids with the binding specificity of ligands called intercalators. In previous studies, the type of nucleic acid structure an intercalator binds to is dependent on the chemical identity and molecular shape of the intercalator. Using this selectivity, azacyanines “shown to target the in vivo structure that GAA/TTC triplet repeats form” will be combined with nucleic acids of various known structures. The nucleic acid structure that azacyanine has the highest affinity for will most likely be the structure of the GAA/TTC triplet repeat. The discovery of the structure that causes DNA triplet repeat disorders could lead to the development of novel therapeutic treatments.

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