Interplay between DNA sequence and negative superhelicity drives R-loop structures
IGG students Robert Stolz and Maika Malig, published groundbreaking work describing the first modeling of so-called R-loop structures, the most abundant non-B DNA structures in mammalian genomes. Using a “first-principle” mathematical approach backed by experimental validation, the group from the Chedin and Benham labs at UC Davis elucidated the relative contributions of DNA sequence and DNA topology to R-loop formation. This work illustrates the power of mixing quantitative mathematical approaches with careful biological follow-up experimentation to advance fundamental biological problems. The work revealed R-loops as novel regulators of the DNA topological state, a concept with important ramifications for our understanding of gene regulation and genome dynamics.