For decades after its discovery, genomic DNA was believed to exist only as a right-handed, double helix known as B-DNA. Its sole functions were to serve as a template for RNA synthesis or as a template for the production of identical duplexes during chromosome replication. These core beliefs were shaken by the discovery that DNA is covalently modified and packaged into chromatin, and that the molecule can form an enormous variety of non-B alternative structures, including cruciforms, a left-handed helix, three- and four-stranded helices, and slip-strand configurations. Transient denaturation of the duplex during all major DNA transactions (replication, transcription, repair and recombination) promotes dynamic transitions to non-B DNA structures as well as other structures of interest such as R-loops, D-loops, reversed replication forks, Holiday junctions, and other complex DNA-DNA or DNA-RNA structures. Furthermore, repetitive DNA sequences, which are highly overrepresented in genomic DNA, are particularly prone to structural transitions. Studies conducted in many labs worldwide have confirmed that structural transitions are not only central to normal functions of the genome, but also are responsible for occasional malfunctioning that leads to a disease state. The most striking example is expansion of structure-prone DNA repeats, which is responsible for more than thirty hereditary neurological and developmental diseases.
The 2018 conference will be the fifth meeting on Dynamic DNA Structures in Biology, a highly interactive meeting that brings together a diverse, international community of researchers who maintain a “DNA-centric” view of basic biological processes. Attendees will include those interested in disease-causing repeat expansions, chromosome fragility and rearrangements related to transcription and replication, genome editing and mutational processes, and the biological roles of unusual, non-B DNA structures. Morning and evening scientific sessions will feature established and new investigators, and ample time for discussion will be incorporated into the program. In addition, short talks chosen from submitted abstracts will be included in each session, with preference given to early career investigators and trainees. Afternoon poster sessions will further foster the exchange of ideas and facilitate the establishment of new collaborations. It is anticipated that funds will be available to support the attendance of early career investigators and trainees.