Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                         CONTACT:
September 22, 1994                                Steve Eisenberg
                                                  Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

                                                  Bob Reteshka
                                                  University of Pittsburgh

Kinky DNA Research at Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center
Honored by Discover magazine

PITTSBURGH -- Research at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center on the interaction between proteins and DNA has received national recognition as a finalist in the Discover magazine Technology Awards.

The research by University of Pittsburgh biologist John Rosenberg led to fundamental new insights into the biological process by which proteins recognize and attach to just the right spot on the long, twisted strands of a DNA molecule. Rosenberg used supercomputing to simulate the complicated interaction between DNA and an enzyme known as Eco RI endonuclease. His video "visualization" of this process, produced from the computer calculations, is described in the October issue of Discover as "detailed and beautiful." It helped him to understand that a kink in the DNA structure where the enzyme attached was an effect caused by the enzyme, not a characteristic of the DNA as researchers previously believed.

This work was one of five finalists in the computer software category of Discover magazine's Fifth Annual Technology Awards. There were 4,000 entries overall in the seven-category competition. Results are presented in the magazine's October issue and also on the Disney cable TV channel.

"Eco RI is one of the most frequently used enzymes in what's called recombinant DNA technology, or cloning," said Rosenberg. "These enzymes recognize a particular sequence of DNA and cut the DNA at those sites, breaking it into well-defined pieces that can be put back together in new combinations."

Because the computer simulations involved tracking the movement of 15,000 atoms in three-dimensional space, Rosenberg needed the computer power of Cray supercomputers at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center.

Last year, in recognition of Rosenberg's research, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center received the Computerworld Smithsonian Award for science, an international award given for uses of information technology that benefit society.

Rosenberg's research receives funding from the W.M. Keck Foundation. Biomedical research at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is supported by the National Center for Research Resources' Biomedical Research Technology Program of the National Institutes of Health.

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, a joint project of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh together with Westinghouse Electric Corp., was established in 1986 by a grant from the National Science Foundation with support from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. To date, more than 8,600 scientists and engineers at more than 570 universities and research centers in 49 states and the District of Columbia have used the center's facilities.

# # #

Related article, with graphics and animation, from Projects in Scientific Computing, PSC research report.

go back to contents page