February 27, 2013

Reading the Human Genome

Berkeley Lab Researchers Produce First Step-by-Step Look at Transcription Initiation

Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have achieved a major advance in understanding how genetic information is transcribed from DNA to RNA by providing the first step-by-step look at the biomolecular machinery that reads the human genome.

“We’ve provided a series of snapshots that shows how the genome is read one gene at a time,” says biophysicist Eva Nogales who led this research. “For the genetic code to be transcribed into messenger RNA, the DNA double helix has to be opened and the strand of gene sequences has to be properly positioned so that RNA polymerase, the enzyme that catalyzes transcription, knows where the gene starts. The electron microscopy images we produced show how this is done.”