Mark Hedglin, a post-doctoral researcher in Penn State University's Department of Chemistry and a member of Benkovic's team, explained that the sliding clamp is a ring-shaped protein that acts to encircle the DNA strand, latching around it like a watch band.
The sliding clamp then serves to anchor special enzymes called polymerases to the DNA, ensuring efficient copying of the genetic material.
The big unknown has always been how the sliding clamp and the clamp loader interact and the timing of latching and unlatching of the clamp from the DNA," said Hedglin.
We know that polymerases and clamp loaders can't bind the sliding clamp at the same time, so the hypothesis was that clamp loaders latched sliding clamps onto DNA, then left for some time during DNA replication, returning only to unlatch the clamps after the polymerase left so they could be recycled for further use," he added.
Part of the DNA replication process-in humans and in other life forms-involves loading of molecular structures called sliding clamps onto DNA.