Vast amounts of genetic information are squeezed into the cells of every living creature. Even in E. coli bacteria, one of the simplest life-forms, DNA is compressed into coils and loops, creating a single, circular chromosome. If unravelled, it would be more than 1,000 times the length of the rod-shaped cell encasing it. Scientists recently identified a type of protein in E. coli that helps to compress the DNA. This computer simulation shows how molecules of this protein, known as MatP (shown in green, light blue, yellow and purple) attach themselves to a DNA molecule and help it maintain a looped shape. Experiments showed that in E.coli bacteria that lacked MatP, the DNA became less compressed and cell division was affected. Understanding more about the internal structure of bacteria may help in the development of drugs to fight infection.
Written by Mick Warwicker
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