We all have read about the usual role of nucleic acids, that is storage and transmission of genetic information. However, scientists at the University of Michigan have shown a new role for nucleic acids. They have shown that nucleic acids, namely DNA and RNA, act a chaperones and prevent protein aggregation. They propose that nucleic acids play a vital role in proteostasis.
Dr. James C. A. Bardwell, an investigator at the University of Michigan, has been working on chaperones for a long time. Observations like the chaperone-like properties of ribosomal RNA, combined with the fact that nucleic acids are chemically similar to polyphosphate, encouraged the team to test for chaperone activity of nucleic acids.The team demonstrated that a wide variety of nucleic acids show very efficient chaperone activity by binding misfolded or partially folded proteins. Their finding gives a strong blow to the hypothesis that stress granules act as storage granule or degradation complexes. The results show that stress granules may be helping to protect proteins during stress, with the help of mRNAs which cooperate with chaperones to help protein folding or keep it soluble until stress is relieved.
Commenting about the mechanism behind the chaperone activity of nucleic acids, the team proposes that the nucleobases may be protecting the exposed hydrophobic patches and preventing them from aggregation. Besides, the chaperone activity may also be due to some secondary structural elements in the RNA.
The team expects their findings to be commercially accepted because purified DNA is much cheaper than purified GroEL. However, more experimentation is required before commercialization.