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Topological Aspects of DNA Function and Protein Folding

3rd September 2012 to 7th September 2012

Organisers: Andy Bates (University of Liverpool), Dorothy Buck (Imperial College London), Sarah Harris (University of Leeds), Andrzej Stasiak (University of Lausanne), De Witt Sumners (Florida State University, Tallahassee).

Workshop Theme

This meeting will provide a forum for biological scientists, physicists and mathematicians to discuss recent developments in the application of topology to the study of DNA and protein structure.

The structure and function of DNA and proteins are affected by the topology of the DNA strands or polypeptide chains, respectively. During DNA replication, transcription or recombination, DNA molecules become supercoiled, knotted or catenated. These processes are dynamic and are modulated by the activity of site-specific recombinases, which break double stranded DNA at a specific locations, and re-assort and rejoin the ends, and DNA topoisomerases, which permit intra- or inter-molecular strand passages by mechanisms also involving the breaking and rejoining of the DNA backbone. The transient DNA breaks induced by topoisomerases have made them a fruitful target for cytotoxic antibacterial and anti-tumour drugs. Recent structural and biochemical studies have elucidated many mechanistic details of both topoisomerases and recombinases.

While supercoiling, knotting and catenation have been intensively studied for over 40 years, the realization that proteins can also be knotted dates back just one decade. The number of known proteins that form knots in their native structure is growing and we are beginning to understand how knotted proteins can fold, and the potential structural advantages of knotted proteins.

Subjects to be covered will include:

  • Modelling of DNA molecules subject to topological constraints.
  • Mechanism of action of DNA topoisomerases.
  • DNA recombination and its mechanisms.
  • Chromosomal architecture.
  • Folding mechanisms of knotted proteins.
  • Function of knots in proteins.

Note: over 10 slots are reserved for 15 min talks that will be selected based on submitted abstracts.


An Independent Meeting of the Biochemical Society


Nucleic Acids Research
NAR awards for the best student presentations and posters


Background image: 110bp minicircle and counter ions (NAR, 39, 3928-38, 2011). Courtesy of Jonathan S Mitchell and Sarah A Harris.

University of Cambridge Research Councils UK
    Clay Mathematics Institute London Mathematical Society NM Rothschild and Sons