An atypical type of DNA, G-quadruplex, is recognized to be present under laboratory environment, but Sean Kerwin Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Texas State University has developed an innovative technique to detect its natural existence in human’s cells and determine its role in the development of cancer.
The research team, made up of Kerwin, Dominic McBrayer, University of Nevada-Reno, Syneos Health Clinical Solutions, Michelle Schoonover, Ruby Escobedo, Texas, Long of the University of Texas at Austin, Kimberly J., and, published the results in “Methyl mesoporphyrin IX exhibits G-quadruplex specific photocleavage activity in the ChemBioChem journal”. Funding for the research was provided by the Texas Institute for Cancer Prevention and Research.
Unlike the well-known form of double-helix DNA, the G-quadruplex form consists of a DNA strand that envelops the layer to form tiers that are layered. It is connected with oncogenes, genes that can cause cancer when they are activated.
This tool is a small molecule called N-methyl mesoporphyrin IX (NMM) that can enter the cells and bind to the G-quadruplex while ignoring the DNA of the double helix. When irradiated with light, the NMM divides or cleaves the DNA structure, whose remains can be easily detected. NMM works with detectable light, but researchers expect to distill it to react to infrared light, which is more competent at penetrating the body.
If the technique proves effective, the same approach can be used to identify other molecules that combine to different quadruplex structures linked with different oncogenes. This could probably open new routes of cancer treatment, such as the design of drug-like small molecules that recognize and target specific unique sequences throughout the genome.