October 11, 2010 | David F. Coppedge

DNA Performs the Linking Rings Trick

Those who love a good magic show should be aware of a world-famous trick going on inside their own bodies.  The “Chinese linking rings” trick is done by a team of protein magicians in the cell – but it’s not for entertainment, it’s to repair damage that could lead to cancer.
    PhysOrg echoed a press release from UC Davis about a team of proteins named Sgs1, Top3 and Rmi1.  This magic team makes DNA strands pass through one another when repairing double-stranded breaks (see 10/07/2010).  The team has to get the information from the matching chromosome, so “a sophisticated repair process is activated that uses the same DNA sequence on the matching chromosome,” the article explained.  “One of the strands is stripped back, leaving an exposed single strand.  The matching chromosome is brought alongside and partly unwound, and acts as a template to repair the broken piece.”
    Aside from the wonder at how protein machines can find a matching strand on another chromosome, when the chromosomes separate at points called Holliday junctions, the real magic happens.  “To finish the process, the chromosomes have to separate – like the magician’s interlocking rings, one has to pass through the other.”  Stephen Kowalczykowski, microbiology professor at UC Davis, remarked, “This protein complex does what magicians do.

Natural selection was Darwin’s little magician that was advertised to create wonders on stage that seemed like natural theology.  The rest of us know that magicians really act with purpose and intent.  When they are really good, magicians make what they do seem miraculous.  But Darwin hyped his magic show without delivering the show.  He not only promised to pull a rabbit out of the hat; he promised to pull the magician out of the rabbit – and the hat out of nothing!  We came to watch this miracle, but the hat, the rabbit, and the magician were already on display.  Darwin came out and said, “The magician exists; therefore, he evolved from the rabbit.  It all happened long ago without anyone watching.  It must be so, because God wouldn’t have made things this way.”  All together, now: booooo…. give us our money back.

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