Friday, April 04, 2008

Purine Construction Viewed in Living Cells

Recently, and for the first time, the construction process which yields guanine and adenine (purines) has been viewed occurring in the cell. Purines make up one half of the nitrogenous bases that line the interior of DNA, the other half being pyrimidines.

By attaching fluorophores to six enzymes known to be involved in the process of purine formation, a research team was able to witness this enzyme cluster formation in the cellular environment. In the absence of purines (and during the proper stage in the cell's life), the enzymes will cluster to commence purine production. A fluoroescence microscope is used to view the fluorophores that are now attached to the enzymes of interest.

One benefit of understanding the nature of purine formation, along with seeing the enzyme cluster needed to begin this process, would be in potential avenues for cancer treatment. Cancerous cells replicate at a high rate, having the ability to intentionally gum up the enzymes involved in the process of forming half of the needed ingredients (the purines) for the replication of cancer cells would be very useful.

All of these enzymes have been studied individually and away from their cellular context. This is the first time they have been viewed as an aggregate, working together to produce purines.
If purines are currently available for the cell to use there is no reason for the enzymes to cluster. One question of interest would be when and how this cluster would have evolved, allowing it the ability to produce purines. Such an important process would be more than necessary for continual cell propagation.

DNA Building Block Construction

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