‘Best in test’ for DNA analyses
Shrimps, mayonnaise and white bread are a popular meal, but shrimps are not only good food. An enzyme from Arctic shrimps can contribute to more secure DNA analyses.
DNA (or in full deoxyribonucleic acid) is the most important chemical component in chromosomes and is the material that genes are developed from.
Enzymes are individual or compound proteins that catalyse processes in living organisms without actually being affected themselves.
A reagent is a substance or compound that is added to start a reaction or analysis.
Every day the hereditary material DNA is analysed in laboratories the world over. These analyses are used in areas including forensic medicine, diagnostics and basic research.
One of the most important tools in these analyses is PCR, a scientific technique for mass duplication of DNA.
This technique is extremely sensitive as in the space of a few minutes millions of copies can be produced of the DNA. This means that even minute amounts of contamination will also be copied, which can result in misleading analyses.
Contamination in DNA can be attributed to negligence in the gathering of the biological material or the fact that the laboratory equipment or reagents for analysis are contaminated by previous analyses via respiratory droplets, equipment or the hands of the technician performing the analysis.
A few years ago scientists at Nofima discovered that the Arctic shrimp (Pandalus borealis) contains an enzyme that chews up certain forms of DNA under given conditions. Consequently, this enzyme can "eat up" any possible contamination in samples or equipment in the laboratory.
A group of French scientists who are using DNA analyses to examine prehistoric fossils have just conducted a study of how they can best remove potential contamination.
Among measures, the French scientists recommend the use of such enzymes. The enzyme from the Arctic shrimps was deemed "Best in test".
"Arctic shrimps are acclimatised to a chilly life in cold waters," says Senior Scientist Inge W. Nilsen at Nofima.
"That gives this enzyme a major advantage for use in such analyses. When it is exposed to moderate heating it stops working. Consequently, it won’t eat up the actual DNA samples which are analysed under higher temperatures. I hope others become aware of the opportunities this gives for better control of DNA analyses."
Nilsen was the scientist who discovered the enzyme in the research laboratory a few years back.
The Tromsø-based company Marine Biochemicals AS, which produces and sells enzymes from the marine environment, has further developed and optimised the enzyme, which has made it possible to commercialise it.
Nofima and Marine Biochemicals AS have in collaboration recently published fundamental studies of the gene and the properties of the enzyme.