We are writing to express our concern over use of the term Z-DNA to describe a right-handed, double-stranded Watson–Crick helix that incorporates the modified base diaminopurine (also known as 2-aminoadenine; see Nature 593, 181; 2021). This use of Z-DNA is, we contend, confusing to scientists and the general public.
Z-DNA is the long-established nomenclature for a left-handed DNA structure first detailed at atomic resolution in 1979 (A. H.-J. Wang et al. Nature 282, 680–686; 1979). Z-DNA and Z-RNA have an essential role in regulating type I interferon responses and programmed cell death by necroptosis. In other contexts, Z-DNA produces genomic instability, resulting in evolutionary adaptations and also in diseases such as cancer.
There are many examples of DNA structures that incorporate unusual or modified bases, but there is no precedent for renaming a structure because of this characteristic. In our view, a term other than Z-DNA should be used to characterize such findings.
Nature 594, 333 (2021)
The authors declare no competing interests.