Scientists Terence Strick, Tatsuhiko Kawaguchi and Tatsuya Hirano of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory employed a nanomanipulation technique by which small individual molecules of DNA, tethered on one end to a glass slide and attached on the other end to a magnetic bead, could be gently stretched and twisted using small magnets. The technique allowed the researchers to exert controlled, variable force on the extended DNA, directly measuring changes in its compaction following interactions with Condensin complexes isolated from frog eggs. Because the helical DNA could be twisted, the scientists were also able to investigate how DNA topology in this case, topological states called positive and negative supercoiling might affect its ability to be compacted by Condensin. Such measurements are central to illuminating the molecular mechanism used by Condensin in the cell.
The researchers found that Condensin compacts DNA against a weak stretching force, but that increasing the force on the DNA reversed compaction, effectively breaking apart the molecular interactions formed by Condensin. Carefully measuring changes in distance between the two ends of the DNA molecule revealed evidence that both compaction and decompaction often occurred in jumps of certain lengths. Comparing the ran
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