Research Highlight

New DNA-based model for making drugs, sensors

doi:10.1038/nindia.2016.82 Published online 28 June 2016

Researchers have developed a technique that converts right-handed B-DNA into left-handed Z-DNA. This method is potentially useful for designing new molecules and reagents that can be used to treat blood cancers, autoimmune disorders and Alzheimer’s disease1.

The B-form of DNA is the most common form of DNA in cells, although cells also contain a small amount of the Z-form. Short stretches of DNA sequences have been utilized as model molecules to study the B-to-Z transition, but few experiments have analysed this transition in long DNA sequences.

To probe such B-to-Z conversion in long DNA sequences, the researchers exposed self-assembled branched B-DNA to lanthanum chloride solution, which converted B-DNA into Z-DNA.

Exposure to low concentrations of lanthanum ions converted the B form into the Z form by bringing the phosphate groups closer in Z-DNA than those in the B-DNA. Using a metal chelator, Z-DNA could be converted back into B-DNA.

Identifying molecules that can activate the Z-to-B transition will be useful for generating novel therapies for neurodegenerative diseases.

“Since the controlled conversion of right-handed to left-handed DNA is a major conformational change that happens in a cell, this technique will be useful for designing sensors and biomarkers based on fluorescence and electrochemical techniques,” says lead researcher Umakanta Subudhi from the CSIR-Institute of Minerals & Materials Technology, Bhubaneswar.


1. Nayak, A. K. et al. Lanthanum induced B-to-Z transition in self-assembled Y-shaped branched DNA structure. Sci. Rep. 6, 26855 (2016)