Wyss Study Could Be Genetics Breakthrough

A recent study from Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering has uncovered features of the genetic code that may end a long-standing controversy in molecular biology and revolutionize the way many drugs and biofuels are currently produced.

Daniel B. Goodman, a graduate student in the HST program, and George M. Church, the Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics at HMS, led the study.

When rare “words” (codons) are present near the start of bacterial genes, working copies of the gene don’t fold as readily into structures that block protein production. To find out whether the rare words themselves or lack of roadblocks increased protein production, Wyss Institute researchers synthesized 14,000 snippets of DNA with rare codons, roadblocks, both, or neither (individual pixels in this diagram), inserted them into genes, and measured how much protein they produced. Those with rare codons and roadblocks no longer made more protein (green pixels). That showed that rare codons work by removing roadblocks. (Credit: Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University)

Monday, October 7, 2013