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ASU, MIT researchers close in on role of Z-DNA


ASU and MIT teams draw closer to grasping Z-DNA--and to a potential smallpox cure.

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Research teams from Arizona State University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have taken a vital step in understanding of the role of Z-DNA, knowledge that could potentially lead to a cure for smallpox.

According to a paper scheduled for publication by the National Academy of Sciences, Z-DNA (a zigzag, left-coiled form of DNA) is involved in cellular defense against viral attack. The finding is based on experiments with vaccinia, a virus similar to smallpox. Experiments showed that E3L, a pox virus protein that plays a key role in disabling animal cell defenses, appears to work by binding to Z-DNA and interfering with its operation.

This improved understanding could lead to development of new anti-viral drugs effective against smallpox.

The paper, entitled "A role for Z-DNA binding in vaccinia virus athogenesis," was authored by Yang-Gyun Kim, Ky Lowenhaupt, and Alexander Rich from MIT, and Bertram L. Jacobs, Maneesha Muralinath, Teresa Brandt, Matthew Pearcy, and Kevin Hauns from ASU.

More information:

"Researchers at ASU help unlock DNA," The Arizona Republic, 5/21/2003

"Virus researchers close in on the secret life of DNA," ASU News & Information, 5/20/2003