Alice Pyne staff webpage: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/materials/people/academic-staff/alice-pyne
Pyne-Lab website: https://pyne-lab.uk
Topology is about the shape, structure and properties of objects, and in the case of DNA refers to the twisting and tangling (or “supercoiling”) of a DNA strand. Supercoiling massively compacts DNA into a cell nucleus, folding two metres of genetic material into a space much narrower than the width of a human hair! Variations in supercoiled DNA structure affect fundamental biological processes, including DNA replication and transcription.
Dr Alice Pyne and her colleagues are using Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), a powerful imaging technique that produces nano-scale topographical images by scanning a sharp tip over a surface (see images below for more information about AFM). This allows them to map the structure, conformation and dynamics of supercoiled DNA. Through this work they aim to understand how topology affects DNA interactions, with the ultimate goal of improving the pharmaceutical pipeline for antibiotic and anticancer drugs.