Microbes called archaea package their genetic material into flexible shapes that flop open in unusual ways, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator Karolin Luger reports March 2, 2021, in the journal eLife. “Very much to our surprise, we found that these structures can undergo all sorts of gymnastics,” says Luger, a biochemist at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Like DNA in the nucleus of human cells, archaeal DNA coils around proteins like string wrapped around a yo-yo. But there’s another twist, the team found. Those coils of DNA can also spread 90 degrees apart—a phenomenon scientists hadn’t seen before. Such bends in the springlike structures could potentially let archaeal proteins sidle up to the DNA and switch genes on and off, Luger suggests. (Scientists don’t currently understand what role these “slinkies” play, she says.)Howard Hughes Medical Institute, “Flexible ‘slinkies’ form in DNA of archaea” at Phys.org
The paper is open access.
So even simple creatures like Archaea might be editing their own genes? And that just somehow happens without any intelligence in nature? Oh, sure.