Jacqueline K. Barton
Kirkwood Noyes Professor of Chemistry and Norman Davison Leadership Chair
Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
California Institute of Technology
Wednesday, November 1, 2017
2nd Level Richcraft Hall
We think of the DNA double helix as the library of the cell, encoding all that we are. But the DNA helix can also serve as a conduit for the flow of electrons, a medium for signaling. Like a stack of copper pennies, the stack of DNA base pairs can be conductive. Many experiments have now shown that double helical DNA can serve as a conduit for the transport of electrons over long molecular distances. Importantly, since DNA conductivity depends upon base pair stacking, we can utilize this chemistry in designing sensitive DNA-based diagnostic sensors. But, within the cell, do electrons and holes migrate along the DNA helix? We are also finding that this chemistry is used by Nature in finding where DNA is damaged and in need of repair, an important mechanism in maintaining our genetic library against the onslaught of damage associated with aging, cancer and oxidative stress.