Marvin H. Caruthers

University of Colorado Boulder

Primary Section: 14, Chemistry
Secondary Section: 21, Biochemistry
Membership Type: Member (elected 1994)

Research Interests

My research has focused primarily in areas related to nucleic acid chemistry and biochemistry. The chemistry, which is commonly referred to as the phosphoramidite method for synthesizing oligonucleotides, involves adding activated mononucleotides to a growing DNA segment that is linked to an insoluble solid support. At the conclusion of the synthesis, the DNA segment is chemically freed of blocking groups, hydrolyzed from the support, and purified to homogeneity. DNA synthesized using this chemistry is used for isolating unique genes from various organisms (chromosome mapping and PCR), sequencing DNA, preparing complex expression vectors, biophysical studies, and many other applications. More recently my laboratory, as well as others, has applied this approach to the synthesis of RNA and a large number of analogs useful for various biochemical applications. Research in nucleic acid biochemistry has focused primarily on studying how proteins recognize and interact with DNA. The research led to the first detailed kinetic study of how proteins interact with short, duplex DNA and identified contact sites on lac operator, cro operator, and E. coli promoters, where the appropriate repressors and polymerases interacted with these oligomers. More recent work has focused on the biochemical reactivity of various polymerases and other proteins with nucleic acid analogs and studies on how to use DNA as a potential therapeutic drug.

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