Chemists synthetically split DNA for the first time

09/25/2013 - 00:00

Chemists from Nijmegen have developed a catalyst that binds to DNA, slides over it and splits the molecule in particular places. The researchers were able to do this by synthetically modifying a natural catalyst. This finding is a first in the field of chemistry and will help in the selective modification of polymers such as DNA. The results were published online in Nature Chemistry on 22 September.

Roeland Nolte, Emeritus Professor of Organic Chemistry at Radboud University Nijmegen, is the leader of the research project. As he explains, ‘Natural enzymes exist that are able to replicate – that is make a copy of – DNA. These enzymes consist of a ring to which another enzyme, the replicating catalyst, is clamped. We modified the natural ring and introduced porphyrines, with the result that the system is able to split DNA. We have therefore constructed our own, modifiable, biohybrid catalyst, inspired by nature.’