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June 18, 1982

Z-DNA: a new twist in gene regulation?

JAMA. 1982;247(23):3175-3176. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320480007003

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A DNA structure that was just an in vitro crystallographic curiosity two years ago when it was first announced may be a mechanism for regulating gene expression in a wide range of multicellular organisms.

The work takes on medical interest with the recent finding of antibodies to the novel DNA structure, called "Z-DNA," in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

The existence of Z-DNA was first reported in December 1979 by a team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, and the University of Leiden, The Netherlands, headed by MIT professor of biochemistry Alexander Rich, PhD (Nature 1979;282:680-686). They had been pursuing a problem important only to biochemistry insiders. The world in general was satisfied with the conclusion that DNA is found under all circumstances in the familiar right-handed double helix (called "B-DNA") whose structure was deciphered by Watson and Crick in 1953. But some scientists had discovered that the