Deoxyribonucleic acid, also called DNA, is the vital part of our genetic materials, which is formed through a combination of four different parts. There is an A, C, G, and T base of our DNA which are combined in over thousands of different and unique sequences that provides genetic variability. There was a fifth class of DNA that was discovered in the early 1980s, which was called mC, and it was derived from cytosine. However, this fifth DNA base was not really recognized until the later 1990s, due to it being the main cause of epigenetic mechanisms. This means this fifth DNA can switch the genes either off or on, depending on the tissue needs physiologically.
While this fifth DNA base has been around for a while, it’s only recently been getting attention, since studies have been showing alterations of mC are contributing to cancer and many other diseases. An article that was just published in Cell, which is authored by Manel Esteller, is describing what might be a sixth DNA base.
Esteller is the director of Epigenetics and Cancer Biology Program of the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute. Esteller also is an ICREA researcher and Professor of Genetics at the University of Barcelona. The report that was published talks about mA, which is known as methyl-adenine, and this could be a key factor in the life of the cells.
MA had been known for years prior to this report, but that was found in bacterial DNA, and it was only thought to exist in primitive cells. The report from the journal however talks about three different papers, which all suggested that eukaryotes also have this sixth DNA database. Eukaryotes are more complex in nature and are found in the human body. The study says that algae, forms, and flies all have mA and it helps regulate expression of certain genes, which then means there is a new epigenetic mark. All of this work is now being done due to the fact that technology and science has allowed for very low levels of mA to be detected, which previously could not be known or found by researchers or scientists. Since mA can now be traced, it seems that mA is playing a role in the stem cells and throughout early developmental stages.
The researcher now claims that more studies need to be done to confirm that this sixth gene is indeed real, which would confirm the results of this study. Researchers would then need to look at humans and other mammals to confirm that this DNA base is present, and then try to figure out what the role really is of the sixth DNA base.