Researchers Develop Crystal Biosensors to Detect Protein-DNA Interactions

A new class of disposable, microplate-based optical biosensors capable of detecting protein-DNA interactions has been developed by researchers at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), Ill., USA. According to a report by EurekAlert!, the biosensor technology is based on photonic crystals that can rapidily identify inhibitors of protein-nucleic acid and protein-protein interactions.

Paul Hergenrother, a professor of chemistry and an affiliate of the university's Institute for Genomic Biology, explained in the report that protein-DNA interactions are necessary for fundamental cellular processes including transcription, DNA damage repair and apoptosis. He added that screening for compounds that inhibit certain types of protein-DNA binding is an important step in research such as drug development.

Developed by Brian Cunningham, a UIUC professor of electrical and computer engineering, the photonic crystal biosensors consist of a low-refractive-index polymer grating coated with a film of high-refractive-index titanium oxide, attached to the bottom of a standard 384-well microplate. Each well functions as a tiny test tube with a biosensor in the bottom that researchers selectively attach a biomolecule such as DNA to the bottom of, to observe how that molecule interacts with other molecules.

While the photonic crystal biosensor was demonstrated only for protein-DNA interactions, analogous experiments with protein-RNA interactions, and protein-protein interactions are also possible, Cunningham said, according to the report. For example, researchers could grow cancer cells on the photonic crystal surface to see how different drugs affect cell growth.

Whether this technology could transfer into the personal care industry has yet to be seen; however its ability to detect protein and DNA interactions implies potential applications such as in antiaging or skin repair product development. Initially, however, based on the information provided in this report, the technology certainly was developed for drug research.

The researchers describe their work in the journal ACS Chemical Biology. Along with Cunningham and Hergenrother, the paper's co-authors are graduate student and lead author Leo Chan, and graduate students Maria Pineda and James Heeres. The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

For more information, visit the EurekAlert! Web site.


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