DNA Goes for the Gold


8/4/2003 - 52-03r
Contact: Public Affairs Office, (202) 767-2541


NRL and NIST scientists collaborate on DNA research

A team of scientists working at the Naval Research Laboratory and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have discovered that some DNA is surprisingly sticky around gold. The unexpected results are described in a Communication in the July 30, 2003 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, with the article featured as an "Editor's Choice" in the July 25, 2003 issue of Science.

Many biotechnology products use gold to hold single strands of DNA on a surface for analysis. One example is so-called "DNA chips" used to detect genetic defects. And in the new field of nanotechnology, gold is often present to anchor DNA molecules between microscopic components. "However," reports Dr. Michael Tarlov, who conducted the NIST portion of the work with Dr. Hiromi Kimura-Suda, "we have discovered that strands of DNA made from adenine-one of the four letters, or bases, that make up the DNA alphabet-stick to gold much better than the others." In fact, in mixtures of different strands, "A" keeps the gold to itself, preventing the other bases from sticking.

An even more surprising result occurred when the scientists dipped gold in a solution of whole DNA made from strands of A bound to its complement, T (thymine). As Dr. Lloyd Whitman, who conducted the NRL portion of the research, explains, "The normally stable combination unexpectedly broke apart, again leaving only A stuck to the surface." "These new results should help scientists to better control the DNA in biotechnology and nanotechnology applications," concludes NRL co-author Dr. Dmitri Petrovykh.



Get NRL News: RSS


About the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory is the Navy's full-spectrum corporate laboratory, conducting a broadly based multidisciplinary program of scientific research and advanced technological development. The Laboratory, with a total complement of approximately 2,500 personnel, is located in southwest Washington, D.C., with other major sites at the Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Monterey, Calif. NRL has served the Navy and the nation for over 90 years and continues to meet the complex technological challenges of today's world. For more information, visit the NRL homepage or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Comment policy: We hope to receive submissions from all viewpoints, but we ask that all participants agree to the Department of Defense Social Media User Agreement. All comments are reviewed before being posted.