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Bound for Life

The four-step process of enzyme loading underlying DNA replication

26 August 2020

Bound for Life

DNA replication is crucial for life; without it we wouldn’t grow. A key step in replication is the formation of a fork. A replication fork can be compared to the zip on your jeans – the DNA helix is unwound by an enzyme, helicase, allowing other enzymes access to copy the DNA. However, how helicase binds to DNA was a mystery. Researchers at MRC LMS and Imperial College London discovered in yeast that helicase, made of six proteins called Mcm2–7, is loaded onto the DNA in four steps and undergoes structural changes throughout the process. Seen here in cryo-EM images are the first three steps (rows top to bottom) with helicase highlighted in green and the loading complex in blue around the DNA coloured red. DNA replication in yeast and humans is extremely similar so this research has the potential to be applied in healthcare, such as inhibiting DNA replication in cancer.

Read more about this research here

Written by Lauren Green

Research published in PNAS, July 2020

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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