When they applied their probes to three different varieties of human cells, they identified fluorescent green spots appearing in the nucleus of each cell they looked at.
“What excited us most is that we could see the green spots – the i-motifs – appearing and disappearing over time, so we know that they are forming, dissolving and forming again,” said Dr Mahdi Zeraati, whose research underpins the new paper.
“We think the coming and going of the i-motifs is a clue to what they do. It seems likely that they are there to help switch genes on or off, and to affect whether a gene is actively read or not.”
The researchers also think this transient nature is the reason this form of DNA has eluded scientists for so long.
“It’s exciting to uncover a whole new form of DNA in cells,” said Professor Dinger. “These findings will set the stage for a whole new push to understand what this new DNA shape is really for, and whether it will impact on health and disease.”
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