Tuesday, 2 December 2014

XNA ink in your Sharpie: an indelible marker for genomics

New research at the LMB (across the road from the Institute I work in) has demonstrated how alternate "genetic polymers" can be used in place of DNA and RNA: Synthetic Genetic Polymers Capable of Heredity and Evolution. XNAs [xeno-nucleic acids] use nucleotide analgoues, and the trick has been to get these to work in a biological system by engineering polymerases and other enzymes.

XNA structure from Pinheiro et al 2014
How these XNAs might be used remains to be seen but their different enzymatic and chemical reactivity to RNA and DNA might offer some clues as to how we might think about using them. XNAs are not good substrates to enzymes that have not been engineered to work with them and are likely resitistant to nuclease digestion for instance. The HNA tested showed very high acid resistance (stability to acid hydrolysis and dupurinatin) when compared to DNA. Could this be used to make lifeforms that can survive an acidic environment, or DNA that can selectively target lifeforms already living in an acidic environment?
Degradation of DNA or XNA at pH1

XNA stability, and the resistance to enzymatic degradation or modification might also mean they can be used as biologics in medicine or agriculture. They could also be used in other biotechnology applications such as DNA inks like SelectaDNA. However they may never disappear from the environment, so who knows what we might be storing up for later generations?

Cool stuf and I can't wait to sequence some if it!

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