LCN Researcher awarded 2015 Wiley Journal of Molecular Recognition Young Investigator Award

LCN researcher, Alice Pyne, has been awarded the 2015 Wiley Journal of Molecular Recognition Young Investigator Award for her presentation at the AFM Biomed conference in San Diego, California.

Alice’s presentation, entitled ‘Single-molecule reconstruction of DNA secondary structure by atomic force microscopy’ detailed the first visualisation of variation in the groove depth of the Watson-Crick DNA structure along a single molecule in solution.

Watson and Crick’s discovery of the DNA double helix is central to our understanding of how our genetic code is stored. Their discovery was based on the X-ray diffraction pattern, created by millions of ordered and aligned DNA molecules, which provided high resolution pictures of DNA structure averaged over millions of molecules.

At AFM Biomed Alice Pyne presented novel details on the double helix structure of DNA in liquid, building on previous work in Dr Bart Hoogenboom’s research group at the London Centre for Nanotechnology. 

“Soft-touch” Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) is used to image DNA molecules in solution, by feeling the surface of the molecules one by one to provide information on the DNA’s topography. By improving the sensitivity of this method, the Hoogenboom group have been able to visualise variations in the grooves of single DNA molecules. These grooves act as keyways for proteins (molecular keys) and determine to which extent a gene is expressed in a living cell. 

Therefore, the observation of variations in these keyways may help us to determine the mechanisms by which living cells promote and suppress the use of genetic information stored in their DNA.


Pyne A. et al ‘Single-molecule reconstruction of oligonucleotide secondary structure by atomic force microscopy’, Small, 10, 3257-3261 (2014)