Their research shows that the mechanism that has guided scientists for the past 70 years has been incomplete. The discovery was a breakthrough in the world of science. The fundamental phenomenon will allow scientists to understand the nature of a wide variety of processes and improve the specificity of gene therapy and the safety of DNA/RNA vaccines.
The importance and significance of the discovery is emphasized by the fact that Maxim Nikitin’s research was published in one of the world’s most authoritative scientific journals, Nature Chemistry. The Russian scientist became the sole author of the article, which is extremely rare for this type of publication.
In the middle of the 20th century, scientists D. Watson and F. Crick made a brilliant discovery: the DNA molecule has two helical strands that are connected by adenine-thymine or guanine-cytosine base pairs. It was believed that DNA stores and processes information due to the double helix structure, which uniquely correspond to each other (complementary) molecular chains.
This law showed the possibility of restoring one chain at the expense of another and explained the essence of the processes of hereditary information transmission at the molecular level. The now-familiar double helix was so clear that for the next 70 years, scientists adhered to this very principle, turning a blind eye to the possibility of other interactions.
Maxim Nikitin experimentally demonstrated that DNA can store and transmit information due to weak affinity interactions that occur if the molecules have a low “affinity” for one another. He also showed that short DNA can regulate the functioning of a gene, even if it is not complementary to it.
The author of the phenomenon called the new natural phenomenon “molecular change.” Its essence is that information is transferred through the interaction of short single-stranded DNA/RNA molecules or other molecules. In a mixture consisting of short single-stranded oligonucleotides that are not complementary to each other, their most diverse complexes will coexist simultaneously. The variants of these interactions are determined by the “affinity” of the molecules and are generally described by the law of mass action, discovered in the 19th century, on the dependence of the reaction rate on the concentration of the participating substances. In this case, such complexes will associate with each other and transfer information between them, even if some two oligonucleotides do not directly bind to each other.
Maxim Nikitin’s discovery makes it possible to experimentally prove a fact that does not fit the paradigm of modern biology: any unstructured single-stranded DNA can specifically regulate the expression of a given gene, regardless of its complementarity. Everything depends on the presence in the organism of other non-complementary oligonucleotides. In addition, the author demonstrated that the new phenomenon allows better control of gene expression.
If, within the usual paradigm, the complementary regulatory mechanism allows about 1012 variants of gene regulation, then Maxim Nikitin showed that using the same 20-nucleotide sequences, at least 10172 variations in the regulation of gene activity can be realized. This far exceeds the number of elementary particles in the Universe, which is “only” 1080!
To demonstrate that DNA can form assemblies of molecules with virtually any pre-established mutual affinity, Maxim Nikitin shows the experimental implementation of a wide variety of systems that process information in different ways, from systems that include only three super-short 7-nitrogen base oligonucleotides of long, to cell memory, square root calculation systems.
At the same time, computer simulation of the switching phenomenon demonstrated stable information processing by a system consisting of 1000 oligonucleotides. This makes it possible to create a 572-bit information processing cell, which exceeds the bit capacity of all existing electronic computers. It is noteworthy that the model proposed by Nikitin conceptually has no limit on the number of oligonucleotides that interact in this way.
“I drew attention to an unusual property of DNA that went unnoticed for exactly 70 years, shadowed by the beauty of the double helix. Namely, that for any single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) there are many other ssDNAs with almost any pre-established affinity, a property I called the affinity continuum of DNA, – says Maxim Nikitin. – For example, let’s take an oligonucleotide of ten bases. Then the completely complementary oligonucleotide will have the maximum affinity strength – affinity. If, however, we begin to gradually replace the nitrogenous bases in the second oligonucleotide with arbitrary bases, then its affinity to the first.At the same time, going through all ten-letter ssDNA variants, for each affinity we will get a set of variants, that is, a dense “affinity continuum” “.
Advance in the world of science.
This discovery was a breakthrough in the world of science. The fundamental phenomenon will allow scientists to understand the nature of a wide variety of processes, ranging from complex diseases, the secrets of genetics, instant memory and aging to questions about the origin of life on Earth and its evolution. This will also improve the specificity of gene therapy and the safety of DNA/RNA vaccines by identifying and reducing adverse drug reactions during treatment.
This requires the creation of a new generation of software that can more accurately predict the weak affinity interaction of nucleic acids, as well as analyze their participation in natural processes, taking into account the mechanism of molecular change.
As a result, this will significantly reduce the risks of negative consequences of inappropriate editing of the patient’s genome and will reduce the number of adverse events in the course of treatment.
It should be noted that not only nucleic acids can participate in molecular change. Proteins and small molecules can also interact according to this principle, but currently, unfortunately, predicting their mutual affinities remains very difficult.