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SCIENCE FILE | IN BRIEF

DNA Key to Bacterium Withstanding Radiation

January 11, 2003|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Scientists have discovered how a bacterium withstands massive doses of radiation.

Deinococcus radiodurans tolerates 1,000 times more radiation than other life forms, making it useful for digesting waste at nuclear sites. Scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel reported in the current issue of Science that the bacterium packs its DNA into a doughnut-shaped structure that keeps its DNA in a rigid position, allowing damaged strands to be glued back in the right order. Deinococcus may have evolved this trait to survive arid conditions, which also damage DNA.

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