Impact: Fundamental research into DNA replication for understanding disease

 The organisation and housekeeping of cells in a living organism is controlled by proteins, little machines that coordinate thousands of specialised tasks at the microscopic level.

Researchers at UOW including Distinguished Professor Antoine van Oijen are using powerful microscopes with lasers and ultrasensitive cameras to develop so-called ‘single-molecule’ techniques to see a process controlled by proteins that is fundamental to life: the copying of DNA.

In the human body, cells are continuously dividing to maintain health, for example to renew tissue and produce blood cells. During these cell divisions, the DNA needs to be accurately copied and passed on to the next generation of cells.

The DNA-replication machinery, the set of proteins responsible for fast and accurate copying of DNA, is a highly dynamic collection of molecular-scale motors whose function is not completely understood.

Since the DNA-replication proteins play a role in several diseases and antibacterial resistance, a better picture of how they work will contribute to the development of therapies and antibiotics.

Using single-molecule techniques, the UOW team studying these proteins were the first in the world to visualise the process of DNA replication at the level of single molecules. They created molecular movies of how individual DNA molecules are copied, providing an unprecedented opportunity to see how the various proteins involved in replication work together.

These efforts are only the beginning. Working with world leading DNA biochemistry expert, UOW’s Professor Nick Dixon, the team is set to take the next steps to their ultimate goal: a complete description of the molecular machines that copy DNA.

  • UOW
    Professor Antoine van Oijen
    Professor Nick Dixon