On March 7th 2017, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) published a recent work from Prof. Bin Zhu’s lab online.  In this work, collaborated with colleagues in Harvard Medical School and Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science andTechnology, Prof. Zhu and graduate student Xueling Lu discovered the first known replicative DNA polymerase that synthesizes DNA without a primer.

        As the key component to maintain the accuracy of genetic information and a pivot tool in biotechnology (PCR, sequencing, etc.), DNA polymerases have been extensively studied. A long-held dogma was that DNA polymerases are unable to synthesize DNA de novo; rather, a preexisting primer (DNA or RNA) bound to the template strand is required to extend the existing DNA strand.In this workthe authors discovered a novel DNA polymerase from a newly discovered deep-sea vent virus NrS-1. Without any homology to known DNA polymerases, this enzyme can specifically initiate DNA synthesis at certain template sequence using only dNTPsin the absence of any primer. The unique featuresof NrS-1 DNA polymerase provide not only clues for polymerase evolution, but also opportunities to develop new tools for DNA synthesis and sequencing. This work was supported by Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Harvard University, National Natural Science Foundation of China, and the 1000 Young Talent Program. Further biochemical, structural and application studies are ongoing.

        Marine viruses constitute the largest reservoir of novel genes and proteins on earth and marine biology can be considered a “new” biology in which groundbreaking discoveries are promising. The Zhu group is focusing on the discovery and application of novel enzymes involved in the nucleic acids metabolism from marine microbes. Welcome to join us!