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Barton To Give Stetten Lecture

By Doris Brody

A startling new view of the chemistry of DNA will be the subject of the 1997 DeWitt Stetten, Jr. Lecture, an NIH Director's Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series event sponsored by NIGMS. Dr. Jacqueline K. Barton's talk, "DNA-Mediated Electron Transfer: Chemistry at a Distance," will describe her paradigm-challenging recent reports that the DNA double helix can mediate long-range electron transfer reactions. Barton is professor of chemistry at California Institute of Technology. Her talk will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 22 at 3 p.m. in Masur Auditorium, Bldg. 10.

Dr. Jacqueline K. Barton

Since graduate school, Barton has designed and used metal complexes that bind DNA with specificity to study the molecule's structure and dynamics. Now, she is using these complexes, which have the ability to insert themselves (or stack) between the base pairs of the DNA ladder and cause chemical reactions, to study charge transport in DNA on the molecular level.

Barton's group has published a series of papers in Science and Nature reporting that, in the DNA assemblies they construct, damage can be promoted at a site some distance away from the site where a radical is injected into the DNA base pair stack. Barton believes that this damage is promoted through electron transfer mediated by the DNA double helix. Before her experiments, many scientists believed that DNA molecules, like proteins, could not facilitate long-range charge transfer. Although the proposition that DNA can promote charge transport is still not completely accepted by everyone in the scientific establishment, it is becoming better supported with each paper Barton's lab publishes.

"Most intriguing," says Barton, "is whether DNA-mediated charge transport occurs within the cell. We are excited about exploring the biological consequences and implications of DNA-mediated charge transport. We would like to understand how nature takes into account, and perhaps even exploits, the DNA double helix in carrying out chemistry at a distance."

NIGMS has supported Barton's work since 1983.

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